How to Take Your Nursing Career Further

As far as careers go, nursing is an incredibly viable and rewarding path for many people. Anyone who is medically inclined and who feels deeply about best patient care practices has the potential to make a great nurse. Furthermore, there is a growing need for such individuals to follow their vocations into the world of nursing. 

Another positive point about pursuing a career in nursing is that there is ample opportunity for upward mobility and career advancement. Many nurses are called to work in a particular field of medicine and make great careers for themselves. However, as the world of medicine grows and develops, it is becoming more and more evident that the value of nurses in leadership roles cannot be overstated.

Nurses tend to work on the frontlines of patient care. They understand the methods and thought processes that physicians use to approach treatment, but they also see first-hand the effects and results of those treatments on their patients. Ultimately, their position in the healthcare system provides them with the type of knowledge and experience that can help to shape major decisions for the better.

If the thought of becoming a leader in the field of nursing appeals to you, there are several different approaches you can take. Essentially, these approaches will each involve the acquisition of experience, skill, and knowledge through further education. All of these things will serve to equip you with the right tools that you will need to become one of those ever-important nursing leaders.

Earn Advanced Degrees

Generally speaking, most nurses are aware of the pros associated with earning advanced degrees. While it isn’t required that a nurse holds a four-year degree in order to practice, many people have come to recognize the value of earning such a degree. This has caused a trend where more and more nurses earn a BSN, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, as opposed to simply becoming a RN, or Registered Nurse.

To become an RN without a BSN, a nurse might choose to acquire a two-year associate’s degree in nursing and then take the NCLEX-RN exam. Many nurses become successful in their field with these credentials alone. That being said, it is only by obtaining a BSN that one can apply for more advanced degrees on the road to becoming a leader in nursing.

Once a nurse with a BSN has gained enough experience in the field to qualify for the next step, they will need to select the right advanced degree program. This might be a DNP, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice, or a similar degree. When a nurse chooses the degree program that they wish to enroll in, they will be given the option to specialize in a certain area. For instance, a nurse hoping to become a family practitioner might opt for Marymount’s BSN to DNP-FNP online program. Such a program allows students to take their classes online so as to better suit the demands of a nurse’s schedule while also providing placements for the required clinical hours.

A DNP provides nurses with the opportunity to learn from instructors and professors who possess a great deal of knowledge and experience. The work can be demanding at times, but through it all, you can acquire the skills and training necessary to become a leader in the world of nursing.

Expand Your Professional Network

There are very few industries out there in which the professionals with the most influence aren’t well connected with other influencers and peers. The value of a solid professional network isn’t something to be underestimated if you are looking to make your way into leadership roles as a nurse.

Firstly, connecting with your peers and others in the field of nursing presents one with the opportunity to grow and learn from the experience of others. This is especially important for those just beginning their leadership journey. By understanding the experiences of others, nurses are able to identify patterns in patient care and better predict patient outcomes. It is through collaboration and the sharing of experiences that medical professionals can look to develop better overall approaches to treatment.

Your professional network should consist of others who specialize in the area of medicine that you work in. For example, if you decide to pursue a DNP in FNP, you will want to associate with other nurses who are on the same path. This means making connections with your fellow students in your degree program, as well as looking for ways to connect with those farther along than you are.

Expanding your professional network doesn’t have to be a terribly complex process for nurses. The medical community is filled with professional networking organizations that are designed to make networking for medical professionals simpler and easier to do. This is because healthcare professionals understand the significance of being able to communicate and connect with one another in a cohesive effort to bring about positive advancements in the field.

You can find a professional organization for practically every medical specialty out there. Some are specific to roles, such as organizations for nurses in particular, while others bring together all medical professionals within a certain field. For instance, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association specifically brings together nurses within the field of psychiatric medicine. On the other hand, organizations like the American Society of Hematology offers membership to professionals and students in various roles relating to the study and treatment of blood disorders.

Once you have ascertained what route in medicine it is that you would like to pursue, you can find a professional organization to help you network within that field. Anyone looking to serve in leadership roles in the medical community, particularly nurses, can benefit greatly from the connections and information that are obtained through these organizations. 

Find a Mentor

While building your professional network will help you further your nursing career in a variety of ways, one connection that anyone looking to become a leader in the world of nursing will want to make is with a mentor. Mentorships are valuable tools in many different professions and industries, as they are a way to connect the experience and knowledge of one who has built a successful career for themselves and the aspirations of someone just starting out.

There are a few ways in which you can go about finding a mentor for yourself. Some hospital systems will have mentorship programs available for employees to enroll in. These programs facilitate the start of a mentorship by connecting those who wish to be mentors with those searching for one.

If your place of employment doesn’t have such a program in place, it might be worth reaching out to human resources or someone in a management position in order to see if one can be developed. Chances are that you are not the only person at your place of work looking to find a mentor in order to help them learn more about their profession.

You can also look to find a mentor in a more informal manner. You might already have a natural choice in mind for a mentor in someone who you go to regularly for advice and guidance. If not, you can simply start the search for your ideal mentor.

The right mentor will be someone whom you respect professionally. This person should have experience in your field of interest as well as have reached a place in their career that you hope to also get to one day in yours. Furthermore, they have to be willing and able to take you under their wing and make themselves available to answer questions of yours as they come up.

Not every medical professional will have the time or ability to act as a mentor. If the person you first inquire with is in such a position, you should respect that decision and continue your search. Many experienced nurses, though, are happy to pass along their wisdom as a mentor. Since it is no secret that nurses in leadership are incredibly valuable to the medical community, you will surely be able to find a mentor who is willing to assist you in your efforts to further your own career.

Work on Your Leadership Skills

It is one thing to obtain advanced degrees, experience, and guidance on your path to furthering your career in nursing, but it is another thing entirely to equip yourself with the necessary tools to be a leader. Leadership is not something that comes naturally to most people. In fact, for a very long time, nurses were encouraged to remain followers and simply do what their attending physician would instruct them to.

These days, thankfully, the knowledge and experience of hardworking nurses is gaining more of the recognition that they deserve, and more nurses are being placed in roles of leadership. Since being in a leadership role yourself is a career goal of yours, it is important that you take the necessary active steps to become a leader.

The first thing that you will want to do is familiarize yourself with what the qualities of a leader are. Naturally, one of these qualities is proficiency in your chosen field. The advice above, then, will be your first step to becoming a leader. You should look to acquire as much knowledge and skill as possible, a process that you should continue as your career progresses and grows. Aside from knowledge and skill, though, there are some other qualities that are common to leaders regardless of field or profession.

Firstly, you should set out to understand exactly what it means to lead. For most people, it involves taking charge of situations in order to bring about a positive result for everyone involved. Therefore, you will need to be able to develop the necessary skills to bring about such a goal.

Communication is one of the primary skills that all leaders possess. If you are unable to communicate with those you are looking to lead and guide, all the knowledge you have won’t go very far to help achieve a positive outcome. Effective communication starts with respect of those who you are communicating with. Articulation, clarity, and efficiency also come into play when you are looking to communicate as a leader.

One of the secrets to becoming an effective communicator is first acquiring the ability to listen. Leaders should understand that their positions of leadership don’t necessarily mean that they know everything there is to know about a topic. In fact, there will be times when it is appropriate to pull from the knowledge of those who you are looking to lead in order to bring about the desired result in a situation. This means that to be a good communicator, you should first look to become a good listener.

Other qualities of good leaders that you should look to develop within your professional life include honesty, integrity, and empathy. You need to hold yourself to a higher standard in these areas if you hope to secure the trust and faith in your abilities that will help you to lead effectively.

Make Your Plan

With so much that you need to accomplish in order to advance your career in nursing, there is one thing that you cannot do without. You will need a clear and detailed plan for your career that you are determined to stick to. This will involve taking some time to consider your path and the steps that you will need to take to reach your goals.

This isn’t to say that your plan needs to be set in stone, however. Over the course of your career, you might be drawn to certain roles or areas of medicine that you hadn’t considered before. You might even find that these roles utilize your skills and experience better than the goals you had originally made for your career. The key is to set out your goals as they are today but remain open throughout your career to opportunities for growth, even if those opportunities result in an alteration to your plan.