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Clinic vs. Hospital Nursing: Which Setting is Best for You and Your Career?

If you’re getting ready to embark on a career as a nurse, then you might just be thinking about how to get through your training in one piece, not about your specific career goals.

Many people don’t realize just how many career options there are within the field of nursing!

It’s perfectly fine to not know exactly where you want your career to take you long term.

But if you’re a nurse, or a nurse-in-training, it pays to explore your options and consider which career paths might make the most sense for you.

One of the biggest decisions nurses have to make is choosing their preferred work environment.

Generally, you’ll find the most opportunities at clinics or hospitals, as these facilities are constantly treating patients and need nurses to assist with care.

So which setting is best for your nursing career? Ask yourself these questions so you can choose the career path that’s right for you:

Are You Interested in Short Term Or Long Term Care?

The first question to ask yourself is how long you’d like to work with each patient.

Would you prefer to work with lots of patients each week? Or would you like to provide long-term care for fewer patients?

In a hospital, you might be caring for the same patients for days, weeks, or even months. If you enjoy building relationships with patients and seeing their progress over time, then hospital nursing might be best for you.

However, long term care nursing can also be emotionally difficult. You’ll be working with many patients struggling with severe health problems and you’ll get attached to some who won’t make it. You will also need to be comfortable building trust and rapport with patients’ families.

A clinic setting is generally less emotionally-charged. You may have more basic duties, as patients won’t require long term care.

As a clinic nurse, you will work with many patients in a single day and might enjoy more autonomy.

Clinic nurses have many roles, and short term care requires adaptability and the ability to quickly connect with patients.

Hospitals Are Good for Those Looking for Larger Organizations

Working for a larger organization has its perks.

Would you rather be part of a small team, or work for a large institution that has clear policies, benefits, and opportunities for advancement?

Hospital work is great for nurses who want to learn how to use new medical technology and work for an organization that is always adapting and innovating.

Smaller clinics are a better fit for nurses who want to work closely with a tight-knit team and to feel like they play an integral role in the clinic’s success.

Hospital work could also be a good option for nurses looking to advance into a nursing leadership position with a clear path on how to get there.

Who Are You Looking to Help Serve?

Why did you choose to become a nurse in the first place? Was it to serve a specific population? If so, use that drive to guide you in the right direction for your career!

As a nurse, you can specialize and only work with pediatric or geriatric patients, especially if you choose to work at a specialty clinic.

Some nurses have a desire to help people in crisis and work in hospital emergency departments, while others want to provide care for people struggling with their mental health.

Consider your interests and the people you want to help the most. Then, work backward to figure out where you’ll be able to serve that population.

That’s probably where you should focus your job search!

Do You Prefer a Consistent or Varied Schedule?

Some people like the stability and consistency of working 8:30-5, Monday through Friday.

Others get bored with doing the same thing day after day and would like a varied schedule with more dynamic responsibilities.

If you prefer to know exactly when you’ll be working, then you might want to get into clinic nursing. There are fewer surprises, and you won’t need to adapt as much to the needs of the organization or patients.

However, if you like challenges and surprises, then working in a fast-paced environment like a hospital will be a better choice. You’ll have more opportunities to take on varied responsibilities and pitch in where you’re needed the most.

One is not necessarily better than the other—but you do need to decide for yourself about which option suits you. Take some time to think about it! You don’t have to decide right away.

And remember—it’s okay to change your mind and find a new work environment if you ever find that you’re not happy!

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