If she’s learned nothing else from changing her career from bank executive to travel nurse, Karen Ganci has developed confidence that every person has the power to choose their own path, no matter where their starting point is.
Two decades in banking and then…
Karen’s career in the business world began in 1992. Her first job was doing customer service at Bank of America. Over time, Karen received many promotions, growing with the company until she became a vice president of premier client managers — a job that had her working with a book of high-end clients. “That was going to be the job I was going to have for the rest of my life,” Karen says. However, in 2009, the economy entered a recession, and Bank of America’s platform of premier client managers was wiped out — and along with it, Karen’s position.
Karen stayed at Bank of America for a bit, working on mortgages and investments, but ultimately she left the company and took some time off to decide what she wanted to do. It was a scary time.
“When you’re younger and you get out of high school, for a lot of people you don’t know what you want to do, but for me — at my age — to lose my job, it was just devastating,” she says. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’” Even though she was offered jobs at other banks, Karen couldn’t feel good about accepting them. What if the same thing happened down the road? Would she still be capable of changing careers?
Looking to your strengths
As she was deciding her path, Karen looked to her strengths. “What can I do?” she asked herself. “I’m a people person so I want to do something with people.” As she pondered her options, she realized there was a clear answer to which career would best utilize her people skills: nursing.
So 22 years after she started her career in the business world, Karen changed her career and started school to become a nurse. Was it easy? Not completely. But in a lot of ways, Karen’s maturity helped her be better at training for her new job. Working hard and getting good grades were a priority for Karen. “Some kids don’t care about their grades, but the way I am as an older adult, I wanted 100 on every test, I didn’t want a 90. I wanted a 4.0 in college.” So she worked even harder and ended up earning a 3.9 GPA.
Customer service = patient care
Not only did Karen’s age help her be successful changing careers, but the skills she learned in her past work experience helped Karen to be a better nurse. She says, “Customer service is more or less like working with a patient.” She says that her experience working with customers at the bank taught her strategies to explain things to patients in a way that would help them feel comfortable, cared for, and confident. At the bank Karen says she learned to “do what was best for my person,” something that helps her create a bond and best serve her patients.
And, essentially, caring for people is what has made changing her career to nursing such a worthwhile life choice for Karen. “The benefits to me is when I come home, and I know that I’ve helped someone, and I’ve cared for someone and I’ve made their day, or I made them feel a little better.” She strives to listen and be an advocate for the patients in her care.
Overall, with this career change, Karen has come to embrace change. That’s largely why she loves working as a travel nurse. When her daughter asked why she wanted to start traveling for work, Karen responded, “I need to do something different, just to say I did it. I want to become an ER nurse. I don’t know what I want to be yet when I grow up.”
Being a travel nurse lets Karen have mini-career changes within her job to discover and continually progress. “Every day is a new experience of what I’m doing. I just think that’s why I love it.” In fact, Karen says, “I think it’s definitely helped me grow into being independent and on the other hand, grow into learning and stepping in the shoes of other people.”
Set aside fear
To other people considering changing their career to nursing, Karen encourages setting aside fear. She says “Don’t be afraid, just go with what you’re feeling. There’s no reason to not try something. Go with your gut and your heart, and there’ll be no shame.” Because, at the end of the day, your past is not your destiny, but your past is the steps that lead you to where you will be next.
For Karen, being in a business role at a bank may not seem like the likeliest stepping stone to nursing. However, making the career change to become a nurse has helped her define her life and impact others in countless ways.