career progressions

How can nurses take control of their career progressions?


So, you’ve been wanting a bright future for your nursing career.

With the need for nurses expected to grow by 12% from 2018 to 2028, the opportunities of advancing your career are endless.

Now, you might be wondering how you do it with never-ending changes to technology and rising employer expectations.

Well, you can start today by taking control of your career. Whether you are a recent graduate or an industry veteran looking for a new challenge, taking control of your career progression is vital in generating the professional opportunities you want.

While there are no hard and fast rules with regards to taking control of your nursing career progression, here are some ways that can help you move the needle.

Know your job market

Career progression is essential in generating new challenges that stimulate your brain and strengthen your skills in different healthcare areas.

For you to effectively control your career progression, you must adopt a proactive approach and study the current nursing job market in your region.

The reality is most nurses miss out on opportunities because they do not take a proactive approach to their career development.

More often than not, they are stuck with the belief that if they keep their heads down and work extra shifts, their superiors will naturally notice their hard work and dedication to their jobs.

However, this rarely happens. For you to advance your career, you have to articulate your strengths and quantify your accomplishments.

You can start by evaluating vacancies and job websites. A rule of thumb is to answer the following questions.

  • What sort or experience, skills or qualifications are required for my dream job?
  • Which roles are in demand?
  • What jobs are out there at the level I want?
  • Are they in demand in my desired geographical area?

Through this process, you can make a comprehensive career plan that lists both your short- and long-term targets.

By establishing your long-term and short-term career goals, you can measure your progress and stay focused towards achieving your intended results.

Other than that, it also helps you take responsibility for your actions. Like it or not, success is just one side of the coin and often, you have to collide with failures too.

By taking responsibility for your work, you can always take criticism positively and make the necessary improvements to achieve your goals.

When creating a career plan, it’s important to list your strengths and weaknesses. Then, as part of your plan, include goals to help you overcome those weaknesses.

Do you need more experience and certifications in a particular area? You can sign up to volunteer organizations to fill that gap.

Do you require advanced studies to take control of your nursing career? Find courses that help you gain the right skills and knowledge necessary to further your career.

Moreover, you can also join a professional nursing organization in your area to stay current in the field and have access to attractive jobs.

Like it or not, progressing in the field of nursing is not about what you know (although it can help) but rather who you know.

In fact, roughly 80% of nursing jobs are never advertised but are usually filled through networking.

When you network with other nurses, make sure you record their contact details and ask them if you can get in touch for advice in the future.

While your end goal is to find a job suitable to your personal and professional goals, you may find that you can meet an invaluable mentor along the way.

You may also utilize your nursing school network. Most universities and academic institutions have an alumni association that can give you advice and assistance on your path.

Find a nursing mentor

The importance of mentoring in healthcare, particularly in nursing, is too hard to ignore. The wealth of knowledge that the preceding generation has to offer is an invaluable resource.

By participating in a formal mentoring program, you can increase the likelihood of making valuable connections with other professionals and benefit from numerous job shadowing experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, mentoring is not a one-way street. It’s a double line of open communication that is based on dynamic and supportive relationships.

The role of your mentor is to provide you with daily guidance and support in the development of your nursing skills.

This one-on-one experience gives you a safe space to ask questions and learn the social and professional inner workings of the industry.

More often than not, nursing mentors have sufficient experience to provide you with an intimate knowledge of how the business of healthcare works and how you can take advantage of every opportunity to advance your career.

By following their advice, you can reduce the likelihood of making costly mistakes that could otherwise spell the end of your nursing career.

So how do you actually go about finding a mentor in nursing? What are the characteristics of the best nursing mentor?

Well, the reality is it is always subjective. Someone who may work for you won’t necessarily bring similar results to others.

Therefore, you should assess the skills and areas you wish to develop to find a mentor who is effective for you. Nevertheless, here are characteristics that you can refer to when choosing a nursing mentor.

  • Values diverse perspectives
  • Able to give constructive feedback
  • Can help you find ways to network
  • Successful in their career
  • Willing to devote time to developing others
  • Eager to learn
  • Acts as a good sounding board

Now that you have a clear idea on the traits of a good nursing mentor, you might be wondering how or perhaps where to find a mentor in nursing.

1. Speak with preceptors of your clinical internships

Clinical rotations are a key component of most nursing studies. These internships do not only give you real-world experiences needed to succeed as a nurse but will also introduce you to healthcare leaders.

Build a professional relationship with each of these healthcare leaders you meet along the way. Having relationships with professionals who understand the unique challenges nurses may face throughout their careers can help you accomplish your own nursing goals.

2. Join a mentoring program

As an alternative to clinical internships, you can participate in a mentoring program offered by some universities and healthcare facilities. Mentorship programs establish positive working environments for novice nurses as they create a professional structure where senior nurses look to support new hires.

Depending on your healthcare facility, mentoring programs can be flexible and personalized. You may be assigned to someone who specializes in a skill set you are trying to improve.

Having a mentor helps you learn, promotes a spirit of curiosity and keeps you on your toes as your career progresses.

Build your professional brand

Branding is often the last thing on the minds of nurses. After all, your job is to observe and record patient behavior, perform physical and diagnostic tests, and counsel and educate patients on treatment plans.

How does building a professional brand can help your career? Isn’t branding done by the marketing gurus?

When you think about brands, there is a good chance that you usually envision logos of Fortune 500 companies. Although a logo is an essential component of it, branding is much more than that.

Beyond visuals and logos, branding is essentially the feeling that a product or company elicits in the consumer.

For a nurse, branding is somewhat similar, although the context is relatively unique. Regardless, a competitive nurse knows that developing a brand is vital in standing out from the sea of other nurses.

The Affordable Care Act basically changed the healthcare landscape, putting patients in the driver’s seat like never before.

Almost every patient who was previously uninsured now has access to the health insurance marketplace and is assuming a critical role in handling their own health.

Even those without access to insurance can now turn to a wide range of out-of-the-pocket online providers and pharmacies.

Whether you like it or not, performance metrics have shifted to value-based assessments such as patient satisfaction.

By branding yourself as a nurse, you can establish trust and set a stable relationship with your patients.

Your personal and professional brand speaks to who you are and provides patients with peace of mind by reassuring them that you have the right skills and qualifications necessary to perform complex processes.

By creating a brand, you can highlight your special attributes, knowledge, training and experiences, which are all essential in the progression of your nursing career.

So, you might be wondering how you create your nursing brand. While there are no hard and fast rules, here are some components to the process of branding as a nurse.

  • Does your resume communicate what makes you special as a nurse? If you have been involved in publications, volunteer projects or research, are they well-documented? Does it accurately convey your skills and interests?
  • Have you written blog posts, case studies or articles that are related to nursing and healthcare? Have you started to establish a body of work that speaks volumes to who you are and what you are all about?
  • What is your social media presence like? What would potential employers learn about you if they look you up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms?

Answering these questions will help you in creating a solid professional brand as a nurse. How you show up in the world and how you are perceived is an important component of your brand.

Even if you are a seasoned clinician or a new nurse, establishing and cultivating a professional brand is a powerful way to dig deeper into your personal and professional mission.

Earn a certification that allow for nursing autonomy

Clinical autonomy is becoming more than a buzzword in nursing circles.

With clinical autonomy, nurses can gain the freedom to make independent decisions and act in alignment with their values while implementing their professional expertise in the best interests of their patients.

While nurses do work together with other medical professionals in more intensive circumstances, autonomy in nursing provides an opportunity for better care.

This is because it allows nurses to make quick judgments without having to wait for another professional to approve or deny a particular course of care.

Not only does this provide nurses with more authority and honor their medical knowledge but it can also improve overall patient outcomes.

Although nurses find themselves managing several components of patient care in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, their abilities can go beyond a doctor’s clinic or emergency room if they have the right support.

By letting nurses provide a more autonomous approach to patient care, they can be inspired to do the following:

  • Provide telemedicine care:

Telehealth consultations are increasing at a rapid rate and from the looks of it, there seems to be no signs of slowing down. By consulting with patients virtually, nurses can centralize patient care and determine whether or not they need to check themselves into a hospital for better support. This does not only allow for doctors and patients to save time and money but also helps nurses identify the most effective course of care.

  • Make educated decisions in non-critical health environments:

There are numerous components of critical care that need a doctor’s input. However, some aspects can be managed by nurses. For instance, once patients are transferred to post-op care, they may need a treatment plan to help them with their comfort. Nurses can give this type of support without having to consult with a doctor, making life seamless for both the patient and the physician.

  • Work in rural areas:

It comes as no secret that accessible and affordable healthcare is a significant issue across the world. While it’s crucial for individuals to seek medical care in critical circumstances, what about those non-critical situations where a nurse could care for patients in lieu of a doctor? With more autonomy, nurses can practice independently or in their chosen rural health units.

Now that we’ve established the importance of autonomy in nursing, you might be wondering how it can help with your career progression.

As mentioned above, autonomy allows nurses to work independently, which means they have complete control of the trajectory of their career.

Rural America is approaching a state of crisis when it comes to healthcare services. These areas are already lacking a significant amount of primary care personnel needed to serve their population.

An aging population and a workforce that is approaching retirement will only compound this issue.

With autonomy in nursing, you will be able to fill this gap, which ultimately leads to a positive job outlook and more ways to increase earning potential.

The level of autonomy a nurse has is directly correlated to their skill and education levels. This means that more experienced nurses are likely to enjoy autonomy in their practices.

It is, however, worth noting that some nursing roles have more autonomy than others. The roles that give you more control over your practice include nursing practitioners, nursing midwives and home health nurses.

An excellent way to achieve autonomy in nursing is to do the following:

  • Apply shared governance where nurses are involved in the decision-making process
  • Empower nurses using leadership methodologies that concentrate on strengths
  • Utilize innovative technologies to enhance connectivity between nurses and patients
  • Take advantage of qualitative syntheses of evidence to inform strategies for establishing nurse autonomy

Alternatively, you can also achieve nursing autonomy by advancing your education and taking online classes at Carson-Newman University.

In general, the more educated the nurse is, the higher their level of expertise and subsequently, the more autonomy they will experience in their practice. This was proven by a 2018 study that revealed nursing education to be a predictor of professional autonomy for nurses.

With the right nursing education, future registered nurses can strengthen their concept of nursing professionalism and autonomy.

As an alternative, you may also pursue certifications to advance your knowledge and enhance your nursing skills, qualifications and abilities. Certifications prove a culture of excellence that helps nurses become more proficient at their jobs and boost overall confidence.

Usually, certified nurses have supreme levels of professionalism and value-added interdepartmental collaboration. They are typically highly respected in their fields. As a result, nurses who have specific certifications can take advantage of additional autonomy in their practices.

Encouraging continuous learning and examination of practice can empower nurses to reflect on the degree of autonomy present in their decision-making.

Additionally, setting an evidence-based practice approach may establish and enhance autonomy. By determining and assessing relevant research while evaluating and applying data about patient preferences into their plans, nurses have the opportunity to make autonomous patient care decisions.

Furthermore, the development of skills related to negotiation, interdisciplinary teamwork and communication can help nurses advocate for their patients.

Achieving autonomy in nursing today

Professional autonomy is an essential component to successful nursing practice. Whether you refer to it as independence or self-direction, having the ability to make decisions within your scope of practice allows you to achieve job satisfaction. You can start working towards achieving autonomy in nursing by enrolling in an online course today.

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