What’s it like to switch from nursing to law in your late 20s?

When I met Travis (Schultz), I was working full-time as a clinical nurse in pain medicine and was very comfortable in my role.

I had been working as a nurse for five years, and I knew my role like the back of my hand. I never thought that I would be flying by the seat of my pants and taking on a huge career change three months later.

To give you a complete picture, let’s go back a step to when my studies and career journey started. At 18, fresh out of school and ready to jump into my studies, I commenced my Bachelor of Nursing.

I had just returned from a month volunteering in a rural hospital in Tanzania, Africa, and I intended to become a midwife one day. Halfway through my degree, I decided that although I loved advocating and caring for my patients, I could also do this in other ways.

To add to this picture, I come from a family of health care professionals, my dad is a specialist doctor, and my mum is an occupational therapist. I lived and breathed the hospital corridors when I was growing up. It was all that I knew. So, when I told my family that I didn’t want to be a health professional and wanted to study law, they thought I was crazy, and who could blame them?!

I applied to study law and enrolled to start studying the year after I finished my nursing degree. I worked full time as a graduate nurse in a rural town while juggling my full-time study load. Although I loved my legal studies, I really enjoyed working as a nurse, and I started having internal career debates with my alter ego.

I finished my Bachelor of Laws in 2018 and, after six years of study, decided it was time to take a break! I still wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take. I was 24 years old by this time, and surely, I was supposed to know by now what I wanted to do. I loved both law and healthcare; how was I supposed to decide?

After much deliberation, I started my Practical Legal Training and was admitted to the Supreme Court as a lawyer in December 2020. Very aware of the difficulties of finding a job as a graduate lawyer, I continued my work as a nurse. It was simple, straightforward, and as I said earlier, I enjoyed it and knew it like the back of my hand.

And then I met Travis Schultz. I remember our first meeting, deep in conversation over dinner with colleagues, and he turned and said to me: “Have you ever thought about practising law?”

I pondered the thought for a few weeks, thinking whether I should give up my permanent role as a nurse in COVID times. It was a daunting career change; this was only earlier this year. I am in my late 20s and had been employed by the same company for five years. I was comfortable. But the thoughts of a career change niggled away. I kept thinking about the possibility of working in personal injury law, which made me realise the benefit my career as a nurse would provide.

I took the leap.

I packed up my life in Brisbane and moved to the Sunshine Coast to start my career as a lawyer in August this year.

My decision was made when I talked to my husband over dinner, and he encouraged me to take the plunge. When I really thought about it, what did I have to lose?

So far, the most significant adjustments would be constant keyboard clicks in exchange for patient call bells. I am thankfully not on my feet all day but swapping out my staple scrubs for professional attire has taken some getting used to.

Some tips from my experience for anyone considering a career change:

  • Evaluate your current job satisfaction – ask yourself whether you are happy in your role.
  • Think of your years of experience as an advantage, not an obstacle.
  • Utilise your existing network to look for job opportunities.
  • Assess your interests, values and skills and determine whether they are being addressed in your current career.
  • Persevere – be confident in your skills and experience that will help you find a new and satisfying career.
  • You will only regret the chances you didn’t take – you can always go back to your original career if a change doesn’t work out.

This post finds me sitting in my new office, almost one month after starting at Travis Schultz & Partners, feeling a little like a fish out of water but so ready for the challenge.

Libby Thomas is a lawyer at Travis Schultz & Partners.

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One Response

  1. Thank you for your story Libby.
    I too, was a Registered Nurse.
    However, I made the jump form nursing to law in my 50’s, following a 20+year career in nursing. !
    Both careers have been exceedingly rewarding, each in their own way.
    Thank you for sharing.

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