One of the most beautiful things about the field of nursing is how vast and diverse it is. This gives registered nurses an almost infinite number of options to advance. And the great thing is that you can choose to specialize in areas that fit you and where your skills will be best used.
However, advancement remains a challenge for many nurses, and many don’t know where to start. Here are a few tips all nurses should follow when trying to advance their careers.
Start Looking at Options
The first thing you have to do is start looking at what direction you’d like to take. Here are some of the ways that you could branch out:
- Work in an administrative role
- Work in a related, but different field
- Work in academics
- Offer services
- Get a higher position
- Start a business
All of these options are viable, and you’ll have to take them into consideration. If you have great organization skills and experience, this could make you a perfect candidate for administrative positions. As a nurse, you know everything that happens at the ground level, and know more about how healthcare facilities really work, even more than some doctors.
Another option would be to work in academics. There you’ll have the chance to lead the next generation of nurses. And this could be a nice change from working in a clinical setting.
Then there’s the chance of pursuing a higher position either within your organization or elsewhere. However, you’ll have to start looking at upping your credentials if you want to get access these positions.
Consider Pursuing Your Education
Many nurses contemplate the idea of going back to school, but many don’t know how they’ll be able to juggle both their school and work duties. One option, however, is to go for an online program. There are plenty of online bridge programs that allow nursing to accelerate the process of going from registered nurse to bachelors, masters, or doctorate.
One popular choice is going for an RN to MSN NP. This will allow you to get your masters in family nursing in as little as 2 years while still maintaining your position. Not only will you be able to accrue experience and knowledge at the same time, but these courses also give you the flexibility to stretch out your studies to alleviate the workload. Some of the benefits of online nursing programs include:
- Less related expenses
- Access to out of state faculty
- Teacher and alumni support
All of these reasons are why so many nurses are deciding to go the online route. Online classes are now better than ever, and a degree from an accredited school will open many doors for you, especially when you have years of experience to back it up.
When asked, Ph.D. Karen Schepp said that education is the greatest investment a nurse could ever make:
“Education is primordial if you want to advance your nursing career,” She said. “The more specialized a nurse gets, the more opportunities present themselves to them. And this also increases the chances that they find something that is a perfect fit.”
Learn how to Network
If you want to be able to advance in any field, you’ll have to be able to build and nurture a network. According to dean and PhD Carol J. Weber, learning how to network is one of the most important skills nurses have to master:
“Nurses need to learn how to network in and out of healthcare institutions.” She said. “By networking, you get to exchange ideas on how to solve common problems and finding different approaches. Find a cause that is close to your heart, and connect with likeminded nurses.”
It is also recommended that nurses who want to advance their career join professional networks. Sigma Theta Tau’s Honor Society is one example. You could also check your state’s nursing association or the American Nurse Association. They are all offer a wealth of resources for nurses looking at a different career path.
Work as a Travel Nurse
Another thing that you could do is consider working as a travel nurse. For one, you’ll be able to see other parts of the country, and see if all you need is to change places. You might find that you prefer working in a rural setting for instance, or simply would like to help these communities.
But working as a travel nurse will also give you the chance to meet people and gain additional experience you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Some will also give you the opportunity to participate in continuing education programs free of charge.
Always Better Yourself
If you want to work in advanced roles, know that your formation doesn’t have to be strictly about healthcare. You should always find ways to add to your skills, especially soft skills like time and project management, leadership, or even things like effective writing.
Not only will you become a better nurse, but you might start getting attention from higher ups. Another thing you could do is volunteer for leadership positions. This will allow you to showcase your expertise, gain more experience, and enhance your resume.
“Nurses should see themselves as leaders, and always find ways to cultivate and promote their leadership abilities and skills.” Weber said. “Start working on these skills where you are. As you start honing them, you can start looking at opportunities either within or out of your organization” She added.
Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor could be another way to facilitate advancement. A mentor will be able to guide you through the proper course of action, and help you find the best path for you. They might even introduce you to options you never even imagined, and help connect you to the right resources.
Advancing your career as a nurse is something that can be done, and encouraged. So, make sure that you look at all the options at your disposal, and have a realistic view of what to expect before you make the jump.