Expert spotlight: Using care when advancing your career

Nurse Leader Insider, March 23, 2009

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This week, Kathleen Garrison, MSN, RN, clinical educator of nursing education and professional development at Prince William Health System in Manassas, VA, and Jill Duncan, RN, MS, MPH, director of the IHI Open School for Health Professions in Cambridge, MA, offer some guidance so nurse managers can make a seamless career switch.

Q: I will depart my facility in a few weeks to fulfill a nurse manager position at another facility in the area, but it is important for me to make the transition while maintaining the respect of the colleagues I will leave behind. Do you have any advice?

A: You've heard the old adage "Don't burn your bridges." This is great advice. As a general rule, exit gracefully and keep your professional cool at all times.

When your colleagues ask why you are leaving, this is the time to set the stage for a smooth departure. Start by thanking them for all that they have done to support you, and for the work they have invested into introducing you to their environment.

Of course, people will want to know why you are moving on, so be prepared with an honest and carefully chosen answer. Phrase your answer in a way that makes it about you and what is best for you. Avoid the temptation to place blame on an individual or group of people who may have influenced your decision.

Use expressions such as:

  • "I really appreciate all that I have experienced during my time here, but it is time for me to move on."
  • "I have learned a lot here, but I am ready for some new challenges."
  • "I don't think (name of specialty) is a great fit for me, so I am going to try a different career path."
  • "I really enjoy working with (name of specialty area or patient population), so I am going to transfer to (name of new area), where I can really focus my skills."

Editor's note: Do you have a question for our experts? Email your queries to Editor Keri Mucci at and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.

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