Nurses rarely want to remain in the ward their entire careers; for example, they may want to move into new areas like the neonatal unit or get promoted to management. They could find themselves less able to physically keep up with the demands of the job and need to move into a new role such as patient education, teaching or management. The big question is, how? Let’s look at a few ways you could advance your career as a nurse in 2020.
Invest in Your Education
There are so many opportunities to advance your education these days, that there shouldn’t be a single day where you aren’t bettering and positioning yourself for higher-paying roles.
When asked, FAAN and interim psychosocial and community health chair Karen Schepp said:
“Education is the of the utmost importance if you want to advance your career.”
She further stressed the importance of higher education:
“Each certificate or degree brings with it more opportunities. And the more opportunities you have, the greater the chances you’ll find a role that is perfect for you.”
Earn an MSN
One of the best ways to advance your nursing career is to earn an MSN or Masters of Science in nursing degree. A master’s degree in nursing can teach you organizational management and leadership skills.
This prepares you to lead teams of nurses, and it is a requirement to become a manager of nurses. A master’s degree would allow you to move into general medical administration as well. You also don’t have to leave your current position to earn one. You could look at online masters of nursing programs while you continue to work – there is a fair chance your employer will pay the tuition!
A master’s degree is also necessary if you want to move into a higher-paying specialized role. With this advanced education, you could become a nurse midwife, nurse anesthesiologist, clinical nurse specialist or neonatal ICU nurse.
These advanced degrees come with a higher paycheck. The salary for a nurse practitioner hovers around a hundred thousand dollars a year, and they’re in great demand due to the shortage of medical doctors.
Nurses with an advanced education that are in demand include:
- Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA)
- Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
- Certified nurse midwife (CNM)
- Nurse executives (MSN/MHA)
A side benefit of your advanced education is that you’re more likely to be satisfied with your career. About a quarter of bachelor level nurses say they’d follow the same career path if they could do it all over again. More than a third of master-level nurses say the same. In contrast, only six percent of practical nurses and ten percent of associate nurses say the same thing.
Find a Mentor
Mentors share their real-life experiences with you. A mentor can provide a sounding board for issues you have at work and help you formulate plans to advance your career. They can give you advice on handling a variety of situations, whether it is a difficult patient or a difficult boss. The mentor can learn quite a bit from the mentee, too. This is why many organizations pair new and experienced nurses at the very start, but not all do. What if you can’t find a formal mentor? Go ahead and ask an experienced colleague to mentor you anyway. They’ll typically be flattered that you asked.
Volunteer for More Responsibility
One way to get promoted is to prove you can do the work, and that happens by volunteering for administrative or leadership responsibilities. You can offer to mentor new nurses, volunteer to assist with paperwork, take more classes than the minimum requirement, and help others pass their exams or learn new techniques. Your boss will appreciate you stepping up, and doing well in these things increases the odds you’ll get promoted when an opening occurs. If nothing else, it will improve your resume.
We often forget how much networking can help you advance your career. And there are already groups out there to help nurses network with each other – professional organizations. At a minimum, join one or two professional organizations. Note that this is also a good place to demonstrate your leadership skills if you can’t do so at work. For example, you could become an officer in the association such as:
- Sigma Theta Tau
- The American Nurses Association
- Your state’s nursing association
- Your school’s alumni association
- APRN associations like the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists for nurse anesthetists
Professional associations offer classes relevant to their members, and they hold conferences. You can attend these conferences to learn the latest innovations in nursing and build your professional network. You could also attend webinars to at least keep up to date, or take post-registration courses. You won’t just increase your knowledge, but also your job perspective. For example, you could learn about the role of nurses in research before committing yourself to that career path.
Don’t limit yourself to networking with other nurses; attend workshops and conferences on subjects you’re interested in, whether it is public health, cancer prevention or pediatrics. Keeping up with technology will make your job easier and improve the quality of care your patients receive.
Always pursue professionalism. This means you should:
- Be honest with patients
- Respect everyone
- Maintain confidentiality
- Keep a positive attitude
- Maintain competency
- Wherever possible, do better.
- Show up on time and do your best
- Keep ethics at the forefront when making decisions
Furthermore, you need to maintain your professional front online. For example, your social media profiles should always look good enough to impress recruiters, because you never know when someone will look you up. Know that you can be removed from consideration if a search committee member sees something that hurts your image on your personal website.
If you want things to change for the better, you must take action. If you want to have more control over your career path and take it to the next level, you have to take steps today to advance your nursing career. If you follow these few tips, you’ll be able to increase your chances while gaining valuable skills that could make you an asset to any organization.