Why I transitioned from nursing to law in my late 20s

Why I transitioned from nursing to law in my late 20s

09 September 2021 By Libby Thomas
Libby Thomas

Changing vocational pathways can be scary, but if it feels right, making the jump – and doing so in the right ways – can be hugely rewarding, writes Libby Thomas.

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 years old, 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?!

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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 twenties 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.

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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.

Why I transitioned from nursing to law in my late 20s
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