Nursing provides many opportunities for career advancement, but practitioners need to be proactive in their choices to take full advantage of them. In this highly competitive field, impeccable qualifications are essential for professional growth. Identifying the factors that will assist and aid your progress is the first step in making sure that you are not passed over in favor of rival candidates.
As a nurse, you can take control of your own career. With multiple options for growth available, it is your responsibility to chart a path that you find satisfying, rewarding, and a good fit with your circumstances and ambitions. Owning your professional development means that you work to create your own opportunities, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
Increase your visibility to make an impression on the people who can help advance your career. This might involve informing your manager that you are interested in taking on more responsibilities; attending nursing events, meetings, and conferences; or joining professional organizations. Take opportunities to speak in public about your work or publish articles online.
Social media can help you make useful connections, especially on career-oriented sites such as LinkedIn. Remember to post responsibly so that you are noticed for the right reasons. Read nursing journals and stay up to date with the latest trends and technology.
Be prepared to break out of your comfort zone and start networking with people you have never met before. Be clear and upfront about what direction you’d like to take in nursing and why you think you are the right person for the role. Conducting solid research in advance will help you to find the best opportunities and contacts. You will also be well prepared to take the next step in advancing your nursing career.
Some people find networking easier than others. It can be difficult to sell yourself to people you do not know, especially when you are exhausted after a busy day at work. Be honest about your strengths and experiences. How would you regard the work you are doing if you were looking at it from another person’s perspective? Emphasize your successes and abilities without sounding arrogant or self-centered but refrain from using false modesty.
Research your goals
Research is useful for more than just networking and is crucial to every aspect of progressing your nursing career. Once you have established your goals, learn everything you can about the role you want and how to get there. Different states have different laws and licensing regulations. For example, if you are interested in how to become a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program at Texas Woman’s University will explain the laws and licensing information of that state in order to advance in your career.
Find out what qualifications you need for different specializations and how to acquire them. Studying online at a reputable university is a way to gain advanced degrees or certifications while still working in your current position. The more you study, the better prepared you will become, resulting in more career options.
Think about your future career goals and where you would like to be in the years ahead. Would you like to advance from your current role to a more senior position? Would you prefer to specialize in a particular field of nursing and take on more responsibility as a specialist? Perhaps you yearn to travel and hope to work as a nurse in another state or country.
Planning out your professional goals for the future is the first step in achieving them. Find out what options are available and what qualifications you will need. How long will it take you to complete the required courses? Can you gain the necessary experience by volunteering or undertaking an internship? Answering these questions will help you to begin creating a timeline for your future career plans.
Create a career journal, beginning with your hopes, ambitions, and dreams. It does not matter how wild or unlikely they seem to you at the moment. Note what you discover in your research—even things that do not seem immediately relevant. One day you might look back through your journal and discover a certain piece of information you need. Keep a diary of your progress so that you can see how far you have come.
The art of journaling is beneficial to your career in three ways. First, the journal is a repository of information that you have gathered to help you find a better job. Second, the act of journaling helps your mind focus on growing your career and helps you stay committed to your path. Third, when you feel frustrated or dispirited, looking at your journal will remind you of how much you have already achieved. You might even want to write messages to your future self, reminding yourself about how powerful and capable you are and to never give up.
The impact of specialization
The field of nursing is becoming increasingly specialized, as practitioners focus on performing unique roles that are parts of an overall healthcare team. Each of these roles requires a considerable degree of technical knowledge, and this increased use of technology has contributed to the expansion of specialist roles in nursing. Planning a nursing career will likely involve choosing a specialization that matches your interests and passions, as well as your individual strengths and abilities.
One impact of specialization is the increased importance of advanced nursing education. Different roles require different skills, and specialist advanced nurse practitioners need to be trained for high levels of competency. Technical knowledge and experience need to be matched with soft skills and understanding of patient needs, as well as how the specialty intersects with the broader healthcare field.
Different specializations to choose from
The main specialization within nursing is family nurse practitioner. A working nurse, however, has over one hundred nursing specializations to choose between, from anesthetics to radiology. Deciding on a specialization can be a powerful motivator for professional growth, as it encourages focus and deep immersion in a particular aspect of the field.
Specializations are often about the specific needs of certain patient groups, such as children or the elderly. This adds a high level of human interest to the practice of nursing, in that you are not merely learning about scientific theory, but also the unique needs of real people with whom you will work.
Other examples of nursing specializations include surgical nursing, emergency care, psychiatric nursing, cardiology, palliative care, community health, school nursing, obstetrics, gynecology, and infectious disease care.
Becoming a nurse educator
Specialist advanced nurse practitioners are also strongly positioned for academic roles as nurse educators, passing on their knowledge and experience to the next generation. They may even help to guide curriculums and shape the future of nursing education.
As a nurse educator, you will combine the qualities of a great teacher with exemplary nursing skills. While all nurses make a huge difference in the lives of those they treat, a nurse educator changes many more lives through the generations of new nurses they inspire.
People from different cultural backgrounds often have reduced access to healthcare facilities, leading to increased disparity in overall health outcomes. Economic and social disadvantages, as well as environmental factors, also have impacts. Understanding these intersectional elements is a core function of cultural competency.
For nurse practitioners, cultural awareness and a commitment to diversity and inclusivity are essential qualities. Working on developing these qualities is the best way for an individual nurse to help those most in need access the healthcare resources that are available.
Patient centered care
Cultural competence is an integral part of patient centered care—care in which nurses and physicians strive to work with their patients rather than telling them what to do. Being able to recognize and successfully navigate cultural differences is essential if patients are going to participate in their own treatment and contribute towards successful outcomes. Sensitivity to issues of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and social background also greatly contributes towards achieving healthcare goals.
When cultural sensitivity and awareness is lacking, it is easy for misunderstandings and offensive situations to unintentionally arise. Nurses may also encounter situations in which there are clashes between the assumptions of conventional medicine or the majority culture in which a hospital operates and the beliefs of a patient and/or their family. A large part of a nurse’s job is to listen, negotiate, and respectfully explain the available options, so that all stakeholders in a patient’s recovery work towards the same goals.
Assumptions and judgments are detrimental to positive partnerships between patients and their healthcare providers. An openness to different lifestyles and beliefs promotes sharing and a free flow of information that can be vital to successful healthcare outcomes.
Components of cultural competence
Cultural competence is necessary to facilitate trust, empathy, and deeper nurse-patient connections. The main components of cultural competence are awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skill. Awareness refers to self-awareness and an acknowledgement of one’s personal cultural biases. Analyzing these biases can lead to shifts in attitude, supported by knowledge showing that prejudices and preconceptions are unsupported by real-world behaviors. Nurses can then work to develop better communication skills, paying special attention to non-verbal cues and body language which can have different meanings in different cultures.
Benefits of cultural competence
Cultural competency benefits for nurses include better data collection, improved patient compliance, and more successful health outcomes. Once cross-cultural understanding is achieved, nurses can begin to educate patients and their families on developing healthy habits that could change their lives. This knowledge might filter into a disaffected community, leading to greater use of health facilities by disadvantaged individuals and groups.
For healthcare providers, more inclusion means more preventative care, saving money and increasing efficiency. Ideas and input from different cultures can also aid and enrich existing healthcare systems. While being able to overcome language barriers is the most obvious and practical way to implement cultural competency, there are many subtle barriers and biases that also need to be overcome.
There are many personal qualities that you can develop to improve your nursing career prospects. Self-confidence will help you put the theory you were taught at nursing school into practice. Entering the nursing profession can be daunting and requires self-assurance and emotional maturity.
Critical thinking will help facilitate nurses in making potentially life-saving decisions quickly and effectively. To avoid having their emotions interfere with important medical decisions, nurses need to be able to assess a situation logically and objectively, while also considering all options and weighing the pros and cons. Stress management skills will allow you to function in high-pressure circumstances, while also ensuring that your mental and physical health does not deteriorate under the strain of a pressure-filled career such as nursing.
Patient centered care
One of the most important intangible qualities that a nurse can cultivate is a good bedside manner— commonly described today as patient centered care. Providing patients with a sense of security and trust has been shown to hugely improve treatment results. This security and trust is achieved by nurses through effective communication, relationship building, care, empathy, and sharing of information.
Patient centered care involves active listening, in which nurses show interest and give non-verbal validation without interrupting patients as they talk about their concerns or medical history. Speak to patients in a way that helps them understand and relate to what you are talking about —without condescension. Pay attention to what is unsaid and look out for small details in their surroundings, incorporating ways to make them more physically and emotionally comfortable.
Be human but manage expectations. Avoid using stigmatizing language or labels that put patients into single categories, such as “smoker” or “drinker.” Labels like these are just one aspect of who they are. Most importantly, be compassionate. Ensuring that your patients have a high morale is essential to making a full and speedy recovery.
The value of a mentor
A mentor is someone who has worked in a profession for several years and provides you with guidance and advice when your career seems to be stalling or your morale is low. Finding someone who will be your mentor without an ulterior motive is not always easy, but these individuals are more common than you might think. People who are successful in their careers often feel the need to give something back, and courses in mentorship exist to help these people effectively do so.
To find a mentor, you can use official channels in your organization, or you might have already developed an informal professional relationship with a colleague who is interested in mentoring you. There are many career development benefits in working with a mentor. You will profit from their years of experience and accumulated wisdom, as well as gain access an impartial outside perspective on your progress and potential in the nursing field.
Be prepared for constructive criticism as well as encouragement. A good mentor should be able to deliver harsh truths, when needed. Trust that your mentor always has your best interests at heart, even when they are telling you things you would rather not hear. Act on their insights and suggestions, and you will emerge a better and more professionally motivated nurse.
The progress you make in your nursing career is up to you. There are many available opportunities, but you need to take the initiative to take advantage of them. Lifelong learning and education are crucial to advance your career as a nurse. Specialization is also an essential aspect in advancing your practice. Developing skills in more than one field of nursing provides you with alternatives if your circumstances change.
Networking with colleagues, joining professional organizations, and attending nursing conferences will help increase your visibility and chances of promotion. These approaches are only viable, however, if you are already being the best nurse that you can be. This means focusing on patients and developing your cultural competency, so that you can encourage an inclusive and culturally diverse healthcare system.
In addition to formal training, work on developing the personal qualities that are essential to good nursing. Finding a mentor is the best way to become aware of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can improve. With a clear career plan, sense of focus, and hard work, you can achieve your professional nursing career goals and be the best nurse you can be.