Nurses have always been needed. Before there was any kind of formal healthcare or even education, there were people who cared for others, helping them in all kinds of ways. These were the first nurses, and as time has gone on, although the range of what nurses need to do might have expanded considerably, at the heart of everything is still this innate need to help people.
What many nurses forget, however, is that as well as helping others, they need to help themselves. This may sound selfish, and that could be why nurses don’t think about it – they are often selfless when it comes to their personality traits – but the truth is that unless nurses take care of themselves, they simply cannot take care of their patients in the best way. They will be drained and unhappy, and that will leak into their patient care.
So, of course, self-care is crucial. This can take many forms, from ensuring you take enough breaks to exercise and eating right. However, there is one form of self-care that is not so obvious, but that is potentially very important; your career progression.
Just like in other sectors, there is a lot of career progression available for nurses. No matter what you like doing the most or what you are good at, there will be a department or area of nursing that will suit you. It’s a good idea to make a career plan and explore the different options, and when you do, you’ll soon realize there are plenty of ways you can make a difference to your patients and yourself.
It can be hard to work out exactly how to start when it comes to your career progression journey. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips that should get you started and boost your career to new heights.
Take Your Time
Perhaps you already know just what it is you want to do in terms of your nursing career. Maybe you’ve already come up with a full career plan that takes you from where you are all the way through to where you want to be. If so, this is a positive thing, but don’t worry if you haven’t reached that level yet – sometimes it’s best to take your time. In fact, even if you already know just what you want to do, rushing is a bad idea.
If you were to rush any element of your nursing career, you might make a mistake that could cost you in terms of money, time, and energy. Of course, no mistake is ever undoable, and even if you do plan well, you might still feel you should be working in a different department because you’ve changed your mind at some point, but the fact is that taking your time will reduce the likelihood of this happening and make your career progression a lot smoother.
When you want to advance your nursing career, you’ll need specialist qualifications, you’ll need experience, and you’ll need confidence that you know what you’re doing. When you have all of these things, you’ll certainly be able to move forward. However, something to add to this scenario is that you should also have plenty of connections.
It’s true that this is not mandatory; you can progress well without networking and without asking for help and so on, but progression will be a lot easier if you can do all of this, and making things easier for yourself is all part of self-care, which nurses need to take much more notice of and incorporate into their lives more. Remember, although networking might be something that is associated with business, but it’s actually something that can be useful in all areas of life and work.
Networking could, for example, help you find a mentor. A mentor may not be able to find you a job, but they will be able to guide you in the best ways for you to find one yourself, perhaps by encouraging you to study for more qualifications or helping you understand why your goals in life really are.
Networking can be done either in person or online, so you can choose the route that is best for you. It doesn’t even have to be hard work – making friends with healthcare professionals working in other healthcare facilities or even different departments within your own can be a form of networking, and this isn’t just useful, but it’s fun too. All nurses need some downtime, and if you can combine it with any form of networking, you’ll be ahead.
Shadowing can be an excellent way to improve your career progression, and the primary reason is that it will help you understand more about what different types of nurses do in their day-to-day roles. Perhaps you feel that working in a cancer department is where you would be of most use and where your skills are most needed. If that’s the case, see if you can shadow a nurse who already does this job, and understand more about what it is you would be required to do. Doing the research yourself is a great start, but there is nothing quite like shadowing someone and seeing everything firsthand. Once you do this, you’ll have a much better idea of whether or not this particular area of nursing is the right one for you.
Shadowing is a wonderful way to advance your career, but it’s not as easy or straightforward as some of the other ideas on this list. Not every nurse is going to want to be shadowed; they would rather just do their work without anyone there to watch them. Not only that, but you’ll need to get permission from the healthcare facility you want to do your shadowing in (even if it’s where you already work) due to health and safety reasons and other official policies. Finally, you’ll need to take time off work or use your days off to do this shadowing.
Of course, the end result will be worth the work you need to put into it, but it’s worth noting that if you feel shadowing is the right option for you, you’ll need to think carefully about it in advance and make preparations well ahead of time.
Career progression is something that, if you’re serious about it, should be at least in the back of your mind at every moment. If not, you might miss useful opportunities to help you get ahead, and volunteering is the perfect example of this. When you are able to speak to future employers about your volunteering work, you can show them just how dedicated you are to helping people and that you are using your free time to hone your skills in ways that might help them if they were to hire you.
There are many different ways to volunteer – you could stay close to home and help out at a local homeless shelter, for example, or you could go much further afield and give assistance after a disaster in another country. As long as what you are doing can relate to your skills as a nurse and put those skills to excellent use, not only will you be making yourself happy and helping many people in the process, but you aren’t hurting your career progression chances either. If you can volunteer in a similar area to the one you want to move into in your nursing career, this will help even more, as it is directly linked.
Gain More Qualifications
Nursing is a unique profession. On the one hand, it is very technical, and there is a lot of information you need to know about treatment, medication, wound care, symptoms, and so on. On the other hand, it’s a career in which the emotional side of your personality should shine, and you need to be able to show compassion and caring for your patients. Being able to switch between sides of yourself and ensure you are doing the best job possible is not always easy, and it’s not something everyone can do, which is why nursing is not a job that just anyone could get into.
Something that will help you with both the above sides of being a nurse is experience. The more experience you have, the more you’ll know how to handle a situation and what you should say – you’ll know what type of nurse you should be presenting yourself as. However, although experience is extremely important, and you won’t be able to get further ahead in your career without plenty of it, knowledge is just as important. Therefore, to truly enable your career progression to go in the way you want it to, you should gain more qualifications.
You’ll already have your RN or BSN if you are working as a nurse, but this is just the beginning. There are many other qualifications that you could choose to work towards, and which one or ones you choose will depend on where you want your career to go. For example, if you want to work with seniors, you might aim towards gaining an MSN adult gero acute care online after you have your initial MSN. When you know what you want, you can work backward to where you are now and put a plan in place so obtain exactly the right qualifications for you.
If you’re concerned that this would necessitate you taking time off work, don’t worry. With online courses, you can work at your own pace in many cases, meaning you can progress without falling behind.
Speak To Your Manager
There is one thing that nurses who want to advance their careers often fail to do, even though it might be the simplest option and the one that is open to everyone, no matter what experience or qualifications they may have. What is it? It’s taking the opportunity to speak to your manager.
The idea of doing this may not occur to you at all, and if it does, it can often feel daunting and perhaps even as though it would be a terrifying experience. Even if you like your boss, the idea of going to them and asking them about your career and how they feel you could progress might sound like a nightmare.
The truth is, however, if you want to progress in your career, you need to have a good idea of where you are now, and one of the best ways to do that is to speak to your manager. Make an appointment to see them so you – and they – can be prepared for the conversation, and ask them what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing your strengths is useful, as it might help you decide what type of nurse you eventually want to be, and knowing your weaknesses, although it might not be very pleasant to be told them, will help you know what areas you need to work on to get you where you want to be.
When you take the time to speak to your manager, not only will you be given the tools and information you need to move forward – or at least plan the next move – but you’ll also be able to show your boss that you are taking your career (and career progression seriously). Remember, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are busy places, and even if you work in a small team, it might be that unless you actually tell your manager what you want, they will never know. Once they do know, they will be able to keep you in mind for any potential progression opportunities, whether they are job openings or training courses – or anything else they think would benefit you.
Being a nurse is a hugely rewarding, interesting, and exciting profession, and if you want to make your career even better, ensuring you are ready for any career progression opportunities is important. Put the groundwork in now, and when the time comes to move forward, you’ll be in a much better position to do so.