How Can I Progress In My Nursing Career?
It’s a misconception that being a nurse consists simply of changing bandages, checking medical charts and a little more. In reality, there’s a lot more involved, even when you’re starting off as a registered nurse. To take on more advanced responsibilities, there are many options for career progression within the nursing field, for those who are prepared to undertake additional training.
Here are some ways in which you can further your career if you are currently practicing as a registered nurse.
Choose Your Specialty
When you advance your nursing career beyond the level of a registered nurse, you will almost inevitably be required to specialize in a particular sector. This could be a segment of the population, such as pediatrics, adult practice, or gerontology; a type of healthcare setting, such as primary care, acute care or travel nursing; or a medical field, such as perinatal care or psychiatric care.
If you’re not sure which specialization would be best for you, you could start by taking this quiz, developed by the pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson: it pairs your personality with specialties, based on your interests, style of working, and level of education already attained or necessary.
Research educational requirements
Advanced nursing careers, such as working as a nurse practitioner, (a rapidly expanding profession), usually require you to complete a graduate degree in nursing, which could be either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
While the two types of degrees have a lot in common, such as rigorous academic study, combined with extensive, supervised clinical work – doctoral programs are longer, and place more emphasis on preparing students for nurse management and nurse researcher roles. The DNP Program Online | UT Arlington is an accelerated program that allows you to achieve your goals to become a DNP quicker than normal.
It will pay, therefore, to think about your long-term career goals: if you think you’ll be happy working as a nurse practitioner or another type of advanced practice registered nurse, for the rest of your career, then a master’s degree will be enough for you.
If, however, you like the idea of one day managing your own team of nurses, or prefer conducting scientific research, you would be well advised to invest the extra time and money required, to gain a doctoral degree in nursing instead.
Although a doctoral degree is a higher qualification than a master’s degree, you don’t need to gain a master’s degree first and then progress to a doctorate. Most DNP programs will accept students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, as long as candidates have a good GPA (the minimum requirement is often 3.0 or above), an unencumbered registered nurse license, and appropriate professional experience. Some universities also require students to pass the GRE test.
If you wish to continue working during your degree, or if you have other responsibilities such as caring for children, you might want to look into online BSN to DNP programs, which allow you the most flexibility and will help in finding clinical placements close to you.
Consider your strengths and weaknesses
However you choose to progress your career, it’s a very good idea to keep your skillset in mind. This is not just referring to those skills you can learn on the job, such as how to execute examinations, or how to use a piece of software, but also the ‘soft skills’ which are slightly more dependent on your personality as well as on your past experience. Ask yourself:
• Am I a natural leader, or do I prefer to follow instructions?
• Do I thrive best in a large team or a small team? Do I work best on my own?
• Do I tend to be introspective and analytical in my approach, or am I straightforward and practical when making decisions?
• Am I motivated by a workplace where no two days are the same? Or would I prefer the stability of a regular routine with little variation?
There is no right or wrong answer to these kinds of questions, but knowing what works best for you, will help you identify the most suitable career path.
If you really want to be a nurse but are unsure if you have the right attributes, you can take a quiz to help you explore your soft skills, or you could ask your colleagues and managers what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, in the workplace. Once you recognize your true personality, you can look for roles that will bring out the best in you.
Speak to a career coach
Another good technique to figure out the best way to progress in your nursing career is to consult with a career advisor, also known as a career coach. One simple way to go about this is to find your local American Job Center and ask their career experts for advice.
If you are a member of a professional nursing organization, such as the American Nurses Association or the National League for Nursing, you might also be able to access advice from them. Professional organizations often hold career fairs, employability workshops and ongoing professional development training, so it’s definitely worth your while, signing up to your organization’s mailing list and keeping an eye out for events relevant to you.
Alternatively, you could hire a private nursing career coach to help you figure out the best way to advance your nursing career. The advantage of a private career mentor, is that they will be able to spend much more time with you than a career advisor from a large body or government organization, which might make your career assessment, all the more effective.
Of course, you will need to be able to pay for this service – private coaching is a lengthy process and time is money in every profession. However, you might be able to keep costs down by having your coaching sessions virtually, rather than in person. You can even be coached via email, which may well prove the most cost-effective option if your budget is limited. This method is beneficial for its informality and flexibility.