When and How to Ask For a Unit Change (Script Included)

Nurses talking and smiling to each other in a hospital guard

Asking for a unit change can be a sensitive topic when it comes to working in a hospital. For those of you who are new to healthcare, it may seem trivial. However, units are coveted for many reasons. Knowing when and how to ask for a unit change may increase your chances of actually achieving your goals. We’ve compiled a few tips on when and how to ask

When it comes to hospitals, units come in all shapes, sizes. Not to mention, nurses that are currently working in those coveted units hardly ever leave. Some of the hardest units to transfer into include: Neonatal, Maternity, Emergency, and the ICU.

Proper Credentials

Before you ask for a unit change, there are a few things to consider. First, do you have the proper credentials you need to transfer to the unit you desire? Ensuring that you have all the necessary credentials is a vital requirement before reaching out to your nurse manager to request the change.

Experience

Additionally, you will want to talk with as many nurses that are currently working in that unit to determine how many years of experience they have and what additional training they’ve received. Although it might not be a requirement, you’ll often find that additional training could increase your chances.

Tenure

This is a big one. Once you’re confident that you have the right credentials and experience, you will want to consider your tenure. How many other employees are also trying to transfer to your desired department/unit? Have they worked at the hospital longer than you? Many nurse managers will often transfer the nurse or employee that meets the above criteria and has been with the hospital longer.

This is not always the case, but it is something you may want to consider to help keep your expectations where they need to be. No one may wish to transfer into the unit you desire. It’s also possible that ten people have been on the waiting list for years. Understanding where you are in the queue is vital.

If you meet the above criteria and think it’s time to ask for a unit change, we’ve compiled a script below to help guide you. If you would like to increase your chances, it’s also advised to obtain a letter of recommendation from a superior.

Hello (Name),

I have been working at (hospital name) for (insert time) in the (insert department name). Although I have felt at home in this unit and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and everything that I have learned to date, I am looking to take the next step in my career here (insert hospital name). I would like to schedule a time to discuss my goals to see if there are any open positions that would help me take a step closer to my career goals. Would it be possible to schedule an appointment with you next week?

Once you have this call, send the email or drop in to request this – you’ll then need to prepare for your appointment. This will require you to have all your ducks in a row. Ensure that you have your obtained required credentials and a list of things you’ve accomplished in your current position.

During your appointment, you will want to let the nurse manager know that your career goals are X, and you’ve taken Y steps to get to the point you’re at. It’s your goal to become a (insert goal) by (insert time). Ask the manager if there are any open positions or opportunities.

If there are no open positions available, you can offer yourself to be on call for when one of the nurses may call out sick. This will be a slower process to getting your foot in the door, and you may only get to work a few shifts a year until someone resigns, but you’ll then be a familiar face in the unit, and the transition will be a no-brainer for the nurse manager.

Sometimes when a manager doesn’t have the exact unit you want available, they will understand your drive and will be willing to transition you into a similar position or unit that could be a stepping stone for your future goals.

Have you asked for a unit transfer? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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