There may come a time in your nursing career when you question whether you’re in the right role, or work for the right organization. You might also decide that you need to do something more challenging or need to look for another path. Every now and again, it’s important to stop and take stock of where you are, and it’s the most important step if you want to take your career to the next level.
Nursing is a very rewarding profession. It’s also a career that comes with a variety of benefits. It’s possible to find work in a range of different settings including hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and schools. It’s also a very flexible career and one that offers job security.
As with any other career there are going to be times when you think about making your way up the ladder, finding a role that’s more challenging, rewarding, and better paid.
If you’re in that position right now and wondering about your options, here are nine steps you need to take if you want to progress further.
Goals and Plans
If you want to take your career to the next level, you have to think about where you want to be in the future. If you’re really not sure, here are some questions you can ask yourself.
What do you want to get out of your career in the future?
What is it about your current role that leaves you feeling unfulfilled?
Is there a specific specialization that might interest you?
Would you like to be a certified wound care specialist, an anesthetist, or a midwife?
Other specialist areas include neonatal intensive care, emergency room, pediatrics, progressive care, and telemetry.
There may be opportunities for these roles in your current organization, or you might have to seek additional certification on your own. If you can identify what it is you want, you’ll have a better idea of the direction you need to take and the necessary steps to get you there.
Networking is Invaluable
You’ve probably heard people say, “It’s not what you know but who you know that’s important.” Just like most other fields of business, this is a very true saying. You may already have a wide network of people but if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present to start growing your own. There are lots of ways you can do it. For example, attend conferences, join professional associations, network with other healthcare professionals whenever you can. Networking in this way provides lots of opportunities for you to learn from other experts in the field as well as build and nurture relationships with other professionals. You never know, they may be able to help you get your foot in the door sometime in the future.
Continue Your Education
Certain continuing education requirements have to be met if you’ve decided on a career in nursing, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop at just the basics. CME requirements are important because they ensure you stay compliant and maintain your credentials. If you look into ways of pursuing additional educational opportunities to enhance your skills now, it’s going to pay off in the long run. For example, sign up for an online master’s degree and you’ll benefit from an increased Master of Science in nursing salary. The extra study might be difficult to fit in around your current busy schedule, but it’s a vital part of advancing your career. The more knowledge you can get now, the easier it will be to get the role you want in the future. It’s also going to show a prospective employer that you’ve got drive and determination.
Take on entry-level opportunities
You don’t have to collect all certificates and licenses before applying for jobs. It can be challenging to secure a job without sufficient experience. A practical approach is to start at the entry-level, such as becoming a nursing assistant, and then work your way up by obtaining relevant licenses and advancing to higher positions. Acquiring a nursing assistant certificate is a valuable and insightful way to enter the healthcare industry. Once you become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) by passing the CNA exam, numerous opportunities in healthcare settings become available to you. To ease your exam preparation, online resources like reading materials, CNA test materials, and study guides are readily accessible.
Starting as an assistant offers a great advantage. You can gain practical experience while building a strong network and valuable knowledge within the healthcare field. As you progress in your career, you’ll be better equipped to take on higher roles and responsibilities confidently. This approach allows you to grow professionally and increase your chances of success in the healthcare industry.
When you’re a busy nursing professional, every spare moment is going to be precious. Volunteering some of this spare time is going to do wonders for your career, especially if you find the right opportunities to do it. You could look outside your organization or there may be opportunities internally. Is your boss looking for someone to take on extra responsibilities, for example? If this type of opportunity arises, grab it with both hands because it’s going to earn you extra brownie points with management. It’s also a great way to gain additional skills and experience. These can then be included in your resume, making you a more marketable proposition.
Join Professional Organizations
Something else that’s going to look good on your resume is membership of a professional organization or two. Not only that, but it’s also going to help build valuable connections and gain valuable experience you might not otherwise get. In the field of nursing, there are dozens of organizations to choose from. Here are just a few examples:
- American Nurses Association
- Emergency Nurses Association
- International Council or Nurses
- National Student Nurses’ Association
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- American College of Nurse Midwives
And the list goes on. The organizations mentioned above are mainly US-based, but there are hundreds more based in other countries around the world. If you’d like to travel and use your nursing skills in another country, look for country-specific organizations to join.
Become a Traveling Nurse
This might not be something that you’d thought about before, but if you’ve got few other responsibilities, it can be a great way to advance your career. A traveling nurse is a viable and fulfilling career path if you’re interested in temporary local contracting or more adventurous travel positions. A travel nurse position gives you the opportunity to make a difference and impact many lives, including your own. You’ll be able to pick the city you work in, find a role that has an attractive salary package and receives a generous travel stipend, some of which is tax-free.
Other benefits include medical and dental insurance, free life and liability insurance, and a 401(k) plan. You get to broaden your horizons, meet new friends, expand your professional network, and experience different cultures, foods, and entertainment. It will also give you an insight into other areas of nursing you might like to explore. One further benefit is the access it gives you to free continuing education programs.
If you want to propel your career forward, another way to do it is to earn additional professional certifications. Think about a specialty you’re interested in following further down the road and look for relevant certification. Whether you’re interested in surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, emergency nursing or elder nursing taking a course helps you build the necessary knowledge. Ultimately, you’ll aim for certification in that area which you can use when you’re ready to move in that direction. Thanks to the internet, there are courses you can study from almost anywhere in the world.
Establish a Mentoring Relationship
Is there a successful professional you know and respect? Do you feel comfortable with them, and do you consider them to be a role model? Never be afraid or embarrassed to express an interest in receiving wisdom, advice and coaching from someone else. You never know, they might be flattered by your interest. It’s best if it’s not someone you work with directly or the person you report to. Consider looking for a mentor outside of the healthcare industry because they’ll be able to offer fresh perspectives on managing people and resources. There are formal mentoring programs but it is possible to seek out mentorship yourself. You might meet someone if you join research groups, journal clubs or volunteer on special projects.
Pursue Professionalism at all Times
It’s important for you to present yourself as a professional both on and off the job. Key components of nursing professionalism include honesty, maintaining confidentiality, offering respect for individuals, cultivating strong interpersonal skills, keeping a positive attitude, maintaining competency and keeping up to date in your work.
It has become very common practice for employers to look at a candidate’s Facebook page or personal website. You should be very conscious of this fact when posting pictures or content. What appears in your newsfeed gives a perspective of you as a candidate that can not be matched during an interview. It is perfectly plausible for your application to be removed from consideration because of something you have posted on your social media pages or website.
If you want to grow your nursing career you have to think about what you currently like doing, do the best job possible, and look for work environments that provide positive opportunities for growth. Keep your eye out for positions outside of your current area. Look at job advertisements and articles about nursing in other settings as this may spark an idea. Not all nursing opportunities are found in the traditional hospital setting.
Health care systems all over the world are continually being reformed which means there are always going to be new opportunities for nurses looking to advance their career in the medical profession. Expand your horizons, and who knows what opportunity will present itself to you in the future.