Nurses are on the frontline of patient care and are trusted with life-and-death decisions on an almost daily basis. It’s a demanding role, but one that is also extremely rewarding. Even so, nurses can often underestimate how skilled they really are and also how easily their competencies could be transferred to other, more specialized roles in healthcare. Nevertheless, it’s not a case of waiting for the perfect offer or the right time – it’s more a case of doing what you can in the moment.
By remaining open to new possibilities, searching for opportunities and committing to a lifetime of learning, nurses can reach their full potential. A dedication to learning in particular, both formal and informal, can really support career changes and advancements. However, there are many other ways that you can progress your career in nursing.
Establish your career goals
It’s hard to work toward an undefined end goal, but when you have a definite aim to strive for, it can be very motivating. You could up the stakes by setting targets that you hope to reach in the next year, five years or decade. Then, plan how you are going to get to each one. You can tailor them to your lifestyle, so if you want to see more of the country, why not look for travel nursing posts? If you have been inspired by working with children, a post in pediatrics could be extremely fulfilling. There are many different specializations in nursing, and most can be explored by taking additional certifications. Along with these milestones, you can set more ambitious goals. Then, break these down into manageable chunks and reward yourself for making progress.
Build your network
In most medical settings, nurses are working alongside many other healthcare professionals. These people are your friends and your colleagues, but they can also be effective allies when it comes to career progression. They might know of new positions in the facility or openings in a nearby clinic that could suit you. It’s also a good idea to network outside of your facility – this could be at national conferences or meetings of professional organizations. Meeting up with a wider range of professionals can be a huge advantage when you are seeking a new job or a promotion.
Work toward an advanced qualification
Many nurses with experience in patient-facing roles have completed a master’s program to move into senior leadership positions. In these roles, they help to drive programs of continuous improvement in their facility and ensure that patient care is a priority throughout periods of change. You may be wondering, what can you do with a master’s in nursing? If so, you can learn more at Cleveland State University. Its Master of Science in Nursing program is available to applicants who are registered nurses and can open up roles in clinical leadership, academia and health informatics.
Find an experienced mentor
In the world of healthcare, having a mentor can make a significant difference to your career prospects and job satisfaction. Look for someone who you get on well with personally, but also a person who has the expertise and insight to provide guidance. Nurses often encounter unfamiliar situations, but if you can talk these through with a more experienced professional, they can become more manageable. The guidance and support of a mentor are hugely valuable resources, in your everyday work and also when it comes to career progression.
Be ready to take feedback
It’s difficult to progress without feedback. It teaches you what you are doing well at and what you need to concentrate on in future. Constructive feedback is about examining your strengths and weaknesses objectively, rather than making you feel insecure. It’s part of continual learning for health professionals in any field, so it should never be seen as a personal attack. Rather, it is a useful tool for improving your practice. After a one-to-one with a senior colleague, you could list the things that you need to improve on and keep them in mind on your next shifts. If your nurse leader is busy and does not give regular feedback, you should feel confident in asking for it. This shows a readiness to learn and improve, which they are likely to remember when a promotion comes up.
Learn from your mistakes
By accepting your mistakes and correcting them, you can transform them into a learning experience. If you experience any setbacks in your career, concentrate on managing these successfully. This will single you out as someone who has character and therefore has the potential to succeed in a senior position.
Take a proactive stance
In all areas of your practice, it’s important to keep pushing ahead. This could mean keeping up with the latest medical theories and technology or attending any training events that are offered by your facility. Furthermore, you could be ready to help colleagues with different aspects of patient care, especially when the tasks are unfamiliar or challenging. The advanced knowledge you gain could equip you for any promotional opportunities that arise, but this approach also shows your commitment to the role.
Ask for help
If you have not seen any training or mentoring opportunities advertised in your facility, make an appointment with your nurse leader and ask for them. Explain more about your career ambitions and detail the ways that you want to enhance your clinical practice. Let your senior team know that you are ready for more and they should be ready to provide the support you need.
Some nurses are content to remain at the same level for years, but if you are more ambitious, this can be discouraging. To take control of your career, you simply need to establish your goals. From here, it’s a case of working out how to get things moving in the right direction.