The Career Adviser: How can I move on from hands-on acute nursing? I would like a job in surveying plantlife or conservation

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The Independent Online

A. Good news – you have a wealth of opportunity. Management, audit, research, and training or teaching are all possibilities, as well as nurse specialist posts and jobs in the community, such as health promotion. The key is to work out which path suits you. You will have had to keep your Post-Registration Education and Practice (Prep) portfolio and your personal development plan up to date, so you already have a record of skills gained over this long period of time.

But be honest with yourself and do some self-appraisal. You may be able to do something really well, but do you enjoy doing it? Which of your (many) skills would you like to use most in your next job? What are your strong points, and do you need to work on any particular area to make you stand out? Look at one of the websites listing nursing job vacancies for something that interests you, and match your own skills and knowledge against the requirements – this will identify any gaps you might need to fill in with training. Try www.nursingtimes.net, www.rcnbulletinjobs.co.uk or www.nmc4jobs.com.

Make sure you think about opportunities in both secondary and primary care and the independent or charity sectors, and contact your local university's school of nursing to ask about professional development programmes, workshops or study days. Employer websites often give information about their plans for the next few years, so you can anticipate when and where opportunities will come up. If your employer can't fund training, offer to part-fund it yourself and tell them how they will benefit as well. The Health Learning and Skills Advice Line on 08000 150 850 will give support and information ( including feedback on your CV), or look up www.careers-advice.org/hlas

Q. I am in my third year of a geography course but I am already interested – through some volunteering – in surveying and recording plantlife or helping with conservation. Can I pursue this if I haven't studied botany?

A. Enthusiasm and willingness to gain experience may be more important than a botany degree. In any case, not many students now take a first degree in this subject – only Bristol and Reading universities now offer it, although several universities offer plant science courses. If you want to do some relevant study, there are courses that involve botanical or plant conservation components – Birkbeck College in London offers options in botany and in ecology and conservation, and the University of Kent offers ethnobotany, which gives an insight into managing and conserving plants worldwide. Napier University in Edinburgh and Newcastle University offer broader courses in wildlife conservation.

Getting some more volunteering under your belt and getting in touch with organisations actively involved in plant conservation is crucial. The wild plant conservation charity Plantlife recruits volunteers to do monitoring work. For more information, go to www.plantlife.org.uk or contact Plantlife on 01722 342730. Other voluntary groups like the Botanical Society of the British Isles; county Flora Groups (some independent, some allied to Wildlife Trusts ); Plant societies and county wildlife trusts are worth contacting. Getting involved and attending field meetings or survey days with any of these will allow you to learn from others who may have decades of botanical knowledge, and who will be only too pleased to pass some on to you. Go to www.bsbi.org.uk or search online for a group in your area.

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