How Can You Advance Your Nursing Career?

Student nurses with a doctor in an engaging learning environment.

A career in healthcare can be one of the most rewarding callings. Once you’ve earned your initial registered nurse (RN) license, though, there’s a variety of opportunities and specializations in nursing you can pursue. Luckily, whether you’re a newly minted RN or you’ve been in nursing for many years, there are many specialties, certifications, and secondary degree opportunities you can explore to help you get the position you want.

Exploring Ways to Advance Your Nursing Career

In addition to vital career experience in nursing, academic options for strengthening your skill set include earning a Master of Science in Nursing or a postgraduate certificate in specific areas of nursing, such as working toward becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS). From there you can continue your education by pursuing a doctorate if you wish to work toward top-ranking nurse leadership roles. Beyond secondary degrees, some opportunities to advance as a nurse include:

  • Seeking a nursing mentorship in your desired career or a specialized nursing field
  • Join a professional nursing organization
  • Attend nursing conferences or networking events
  • Create a nursing networking group in your local area
  • Become a clinical supervisor for undergraduates pursuing their nursing degrees

Investing time in one of these options is likely to better prepare you to advance in your nursing career. Pursuing one advancement opportunity can often lead to another. For example, if you are able to secure a nursing mentorship, your mentor may connect you with a nursing networking group or invite you to attend a conference with them. They may also have personal connections with a graduate program in nursing which can help you narrow down your search if you want to pursue a secondary degree.

The Future of the Field of Nursing

As the world’s population continues to live longer, the necessity of healthcare professionals is well documented. With an aging population also comes new issues, diseases, and opportunities for advancements in the field.

One of the largest contributing factors to the landscape of nursing and healthcare work today, according to the National Library of Medicine in their The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity text, is social determinants of health (SDOH):

“Today in the United States, the health of far too many individuals, families, entire neighborhoods, and communities is compromised by social determinants of health (SDOH), such as food insecurity and poverty, as well as by limited access to health care services. The size, distribution, diversity, and educational preparation of the nursing workforce needed to assist in addressing these health challenges are therefore critically important.”

The future of nursing continues to change as the health needs of communities change. By continuing your education as a nurse, you ensure that you will be better prepared to deal with the changing landscape of healthcare and nursing.

The healthcare field is also expected to have the most rapid increase in job employment opportunities between now and 2032. The increased need for nurses in the future will ensure there are plenty of opportunities. As more registered nurses enter the field, earning a second degree and specializing in a nursing field will not only help you advance but it will also set you apart from newer registered nurses.

Assessing Your Current Position

As a nurse who is consistently invested in improving the health and wellness of others, you may not always have much capacity to think of your long-term career goals. It’s important to look for direction and motivation from charge nurses, nursing managers and other professional mentors who can help you set and pursue your career goals. These individuals can also help you create support networks to help you avoid burnout. Making a habit of building short- and long-term career goals will help keep you motivated in your nursing career.

The steps to understanding where you are in your current role include:

  • Seeking feedback from supervisors
  • Taking time to reflect on your practice citing evidence
  • Engaging in learning activities to know where you are relative to others

These three opportunities for self-evaluation can shed light on any areas where you may need to improve. When you know where you need to improve you can make an informed decision on how to set your next career goal and grow as a nurse.

Growth in a nursing career does not take the traditional trajectory of other corporate or even academic counterparts. With so many varying degrees of skill, hospital best practices, and laws in healthcare, nursing career growth takes many forms. However, there are some tips you can follow to promote a fairly steady climb in your career:

Infographic that details ways to advance your nursing career.

Research nursing specialties and pursue the education required to acquire them

Most nursing specializations require an advanced degree in nursing. Sometimes this is a master’s and other times it’s a doctor of nursing practice with a concentration in a specific area. Almost all advanced nursing positions require some years of clinical experience in the specific degree area you are pursuing as well.

Try different rotations at your current hospital

Many hospitals offer opportunities for nurses and these job rotations may have a positive impact on role stress and burnout. By asking your supervisor about different areas of the hospital you can discover where you may be able to move. Not only will you gain a new skill by working in a different area of the hospital, but you will also have the chance to interact with different patients and doctors.

Seek a nursing certification

If going back for another degree is too much of a commitment for you then you might consider earning a certification. While there is still a cost associated with earning a certification, it usually requires less of a time commitment than going back to school for a secondary nursing degree.

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Setting Career Goals

After you’ve earned your undergraduate degree in nursing or a related field and passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) you want to take some time to set your goals. Creating a plan for your future career will help you create purpose in your daily routine and work.

Setting a nursing career goal can be a difficult process initially, so it’s important to consider a few things before starting:

  • Remember why you became a nurse
  • Learn more about your current work setting and the options available to you there
  • Understand your patient population or the patient population you want to work with
  • Consider your ideal work schedule

As you think through your personal experience in these areas, options for growth may present themselves. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated area to take notes on each of these topics so you can refer to them when you are setting your goals. Writing your goals down is also a great way to keep track of your progress towards achieving them.

Continuing Your Education in Nursing

Many nurses who are looking to advance in their careers need to go back to school. While there are other routes you can take as a nurse, like earning a certification, more advanced roles may require more school. These further degrees take the form of either a master’s or doctorate in the nursing field. Opportunities to earn your degree at an accredited university with connections to the entire San Diego healthcare field can be found at PLNU.

There are many avenues to consider when pursuing a degree including:

Take the next steps towards an impactful career in nursing by pursuing one of these opportunities. Learn more about PLNU’s nursing programs and select the right one for you here.

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