Your Dream Job

No, I don’t have the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow folks. Sorry to disappoint you. In this brutal economy with the vague ‘nursing shortage’, jobs are still tough to locate. But, in my opinion that is all the more reason to figure out what is your ideal job.

Figuring out what the ‘dream job’ is will help you navigate through the doors of opportunity and the windows of failed attempts. Just because it’s a job offer doesn’t mean you should take it – at least not without some thought.

The didactic of a nursing job is complex as hell (sorry, pardon my language). It involves so many different facets that any one of them can make or break your happiness. Being happy about a job is all about sacrifice and priorities (You could substitute the word ‘sane’ for ‘happy’ if you like). Throw into the mix your skill set, your area of specialty and how many years of experience you have under your belt, and things just get more complex.

I myself like to measure a dream job by it’s pro’s and con’s. What can you do without? What can’t you do without? (That whole K.I.S.S. principle really does work sometimes)

I would make a list of everything that ‘matters’ to you and your dream job. Then start throwing all those things that matter into the ‘CAN’ and ‘CAN’T’ categories I just mentioned.

Here’s a very simple sample of what I’m talking about (for me and my ideal job).

Things that matter:

> Pay rate

> Pay increases for education or certifications (BSN, MSN, CCRN, CNRN, etc.)

> Critical care environment – will I be floated?

> Level of critical care environment (Level I? Level IV? 24hr physician on site? Urban? Suburban?)

> Nurse-patient ratio

> Orientation requirement (both hospital and unit)

> Probationary period (is there one?)

> CEU compensation and availability

> Size of nursing unit (6 bed? 12 bed? 24 bed?)

> Patient population (trauma, cardiac, neuro, medical, etc.)

> Staff nurse relationship w physician team (via interview from staff working on unit)

> Team environment (also via interview from staff working on unit)

> Staff turnover ratio (including length of time manager has been in position)

> Skill mix of staff on unit (new nurse vs. seasoned nurse)

> Dedicated charge nurse (does charge nurse have assignment)

> Types of equipment and gadgets (I’m an ICU nurse – we love new technology)

> Location of job (how long of a commute, etc.)

> Opportunity for growth (advancement within company, charge nurse, manager, etc.)

> Shift assignment (12hr? 8hr? Rotating shifts? Dedicated days? Dedicated nights?)

> Vacation / sick time / persona time – how it is calculated

> Evaluation and pay rate (annual increases? Percentage based increase? Flat rate increase?)

> Insurance offered

> Low census (how is it handled? Floated? On call time – if so do you get paid?)

> Schedule requests and monthly sign up ( self scheduling? Dedicated time/ day slots? Manager approved? Staff approved?)

> Uniform requirements (all one color? White? Shoe requirement? Facility provided?)

This is of course a random list off the top of my head. The idea here is to make this list and start divvying up what you can and cannot do without. For instance in the beginning of my career I could care less about travel time to and from work. I worked a job that was a 70 mile commute one way. Over the course of that job I found out the hard way that no matter how great the job was (and the job was truly awesome), the drive was killing me. I started to not like my job simply because of the drive. The shorter drive went from a CAN live without to a CAN’T live without.

I think this list and how you divvy things up will continue to grow and change over the course of one’s career. We grow as professionals and individuals and our priorities will shift. In the end we all make the greatest attempt at finding that balance between work and life outside of work. The hard part is finding it, and then maintaining.

So although you may not get that dream gig playing video games for money, use your list as a compass when given the opportunity to make the next move in your career. It will help you determine just how ‘great’ that opportunity is and hopefully help you steer clear from the job ‘hop-scotch’ game.

What do you think? Share your career tips in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. A bit off what you ask but the title “your dream job” brought to mind what I always say is my dream job. I would be a medical translator, as in go around translating for patients what their medical provider is really saying. Too many patients never ask! They feel stupid or feel the Dr. doesn’t have time for their questions. Or they go home and call a nurse friend asking what it meant, or the worst choice of all…just do what they understood to be the instructions which may be totally wrong, or go home and suffer in silence as their issue was not addressed. I preach all the time that they have the right to ask to have things explained and if it is not explained so they understand to ask for it to be said differently. But alas, many don’t feel they have that right. Don’t get me wrong I adore my current job, don’t plan on doing any other but if I had my dream, this would be it. Of course I will need to develop the ability to clone myself as the need is great!


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