Nursing is a competitive field, so basic certifications alone won't elevate your professional profile. If you’ve already mastered your domain, moving forward in your nursing journey is the natural next step.
To move up the career ladder, look to further your training and enhance critical reasoning skills. Education is key, along with practical experience and networking. There are many ways for nurses to advance your professional goals.
Leadership: Being a leader makes you comfortable in your role, making it easy to look for improvement opportunities within your organization. Leadership skills come with good critical thinking, the ability to function in stressful situations, and the motivation to evolve constantly in your profession.
Professionalism: As a nurse leader, cultivating strong interpersonal skills is crucial. You have to be respectful of your patients’ concerns, offer them support, and maintain a positive attitude every day. HIPAA laws mean confidentiality is required of the nurse-patient relationship and being honest is not negotiable.
Ethics: All nurses take ethics courses, as nurses play a big part in decision making when it comes to their patients. Personal image is important, so be wary of what you post on social media accounts. Nurses have to present themselves as professionals both on the job and in their personal lives.
Before moving up the career ladder, you must first ask yourself where you want to go, i.e. what are your nursing goals and motivations?
Do you see yourself as a nurse practitioner, or an advanced nurse specialist? Focus on that path and do everything in your power to achieve it. Here are some things you can do to get going.
1. Volunteer for administrative and leadership responsibilities.
It might sound like unpaid work you don’t have time for, but volunteering will help you gain experience, additional skills, and upgrade your resume.
2. Join professional organizations.
There are many nursing organizations you can join, both general and specialized. Being a member of a professional organization looks good on your resume and offers you the opportunity to learn from people like yourself, who also want to improve their perspectives and build strong interpersonal connections. The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the largest nursing organization. Attending conferences is another way of improving your skills and building a network. Conferences will give you the opportunity to learn from experts and keep your options open.
3. Build a network.
Meeting new people and exchanging ideas is one of the best ways to approach new perspectives. Networking in your own community is crucial, but don’t overlook the opportunity to gain information from the industry by networking outside of it. You can build a network and make friends by attending workshops, conferences, or participating in webinars with colleagues and people with similar interests.
4. Find a mentor.
Having a role model or even just someone who can pass on their wisdom to you as you start your nursing career can prove to be immensely helpful. Nothing can replace the real-life experience of a more experienced colleague and it’s not something you can find in a textbook. Many health organizations pair new and experienced employees from the start. If you want to become a mentee, first identify a person who you’re most comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to ask for nursing career advice and guidance from a more experienced, successful colleague.
5. Further your education.
Investing in education takes time, energy, and a lot of commitment, but it’s extremely important when you want to advance your career. View it as a personal journey that comes with rewards and, eventually, makes you successful. With each nursing certificate, degree or specialized program, new opportunities will open up. Are you interested in a specific field, such as pediatrics, anesthetics, or surgery? Consider pursuing additional certifications or taking some specialized courses that will help you stay up-to-date with all the best practices and latest news in nursing.
Today, the average age of retirement for nurses is 61. Even though the job is physically and emotionally challenging, nurses tend to stay longer in their profession. Nurses provide the key link between doctors and patients, so it’s not uncommon for patients to interact more with nurses than doctors. This close connection is one of the various reasons nurses find their profession rewarding.
What are your career goals and how far have you come in achieving them?