How To Develop Your Nursing Career

30 November 2020

When you first begin your career as a nurse, what are you planning for? What are your goals? You might not have any, and that’s fine; if you like what you are doing and can see yourself doing it for the rest of your life, then it’s good that you enjoy your work and can remain in a safe position forever.

However, you might want more. You might want a higher salary or more responsibility. You might want additional qualifications, such as a DNP. You might do this to challenge yourself, or to show others what you can do, or perhaps to reach your ultimate career goals. Whatever the reason, if you do want to develop throughout your nursing career, there are a number of steps you can put in place to do so. It’s good to start planning as early as possible, so you know you’re working in the right way and heading down the right path, so why not begin today? 

Look At Your Own Workplace 

Nurses shouldn’t just assume that, just because they have earned their DNP or other qualifications, they need to then begin looking elsewhere for work. If you are already working in a hospital, a clinic, a private setting, or anywhere else and you enjoy your place of work, then start there. This is a good idea for two reasons. 

The first reason to do this is that you will already be comfortable in that setting, and therefore, should you need to go to an interview for a position in a different department or in another area of nursing, you will automatically be more confident. This, plus a great resumé and your DNP, will help to make you stand out as an ideal candidate, and will give you much more chance of getting the job you want. 

The second reason is that there is a big emphasis on nurse retention in most hospitals. It is cheaper and easier to keep nurses who already work there than it is to lose a nurse who knows exactly how a particular hospital or department is run, and then have to hire a new one. Advertising, the time to interview new people, making sure they have the DNP that is required for the job, and so on, all takes time and money, which is lessened greatly if you can hire someone who is already working there. 

On a personal level, if you like where you work and are happy with your commuting time, with the hours, with the way it fits with your life, and with your friends and colleagues who work with you, it’s much less mentally challenging to stay in that familiar place—albeit working at a higher level—than it is to start again elsewhere. 

So, if you’re looking for career development opportunities, always start with where you are now. Ask around in departments you are interested in working in to see if there are any vacancies or any chances to switch, and your career can go from strength to strength without any disruption to the rest of your life. 

Use Your Benefits 

Depending on where you work and what your contract states, you might have some benefits that you can use to help develop your career. For example, your employer might offer all their nurses tuition time or even money towards gaining additional qualifications. After all, assuming the nurse earns their DNP and then stays at that hospital as mentioned above, it is an investment for the hospital to pay for training. Check out whether this applies to you, and if it does then make sure you use that benefit to your best advantage and develop your career further with it. 

These are not the only benefits that might be on offer. The hospital or other healthcare setting you work in might also allow its nurses time off to attend seminars and conferences, as long as these conferences help advance their knowledge in some way. If you want to go to a specific seminar then there is no harm in speaking to your manager about it. Prove to them that it will help you do your job better, or that the knowledge you gain will help the department work more smoothly, and they may well pay for you to go. 

There are so many different opportunities for nurses to enhance and develop their skills, knowledge base, and careers that you should always be on the lookout for these opportunities. Remember to put everything on your resumé, and by the time you are ready to use that document, you won’t have to try to remember everything that you have done, seen, and learnt. 

Become An Expert

As with any career, if you can position yourself as an expert in your field, you will have many more opportunities to advance your career. Plus, you are developing your knowledge and skills greatly simply by choosing to become an expert—the more you learn, the better you will become, so this is the kind of situation that will suit everyone. 

One of the best ways to become a true expert in a particular area is to specialize in it. Instead of being a general nurse who is able to do some of everything, you should look at becoming a specialist nurse who knows everything about one particular sector of nursing. Whether it’s working in the ER, nursing children, working with vulnerable patients, working in the community, being an OR assistant, or anything else—and there are dozens of different nursing career options to choose from—your DNP and your skills can help to point you in the right direction. Pick a sector that you are going to enjoy learning about and working in, and you can become an expert in it. 

When you are an expert, you will become an indispensable part of the team, and the career development opportunities that will open up to you will be immense. You might even become someone’s mentor or unofficial tutor. This may not have been in your initial plan, but it can definitely enhance your career and allow you to develop as a person as well as a nurse. 

Take On A Leadership Role 

If you want to use your DNP well then becoming any kind of leader in your nursing career is a good idea. There are many leadership roles you can take on that aren’t necessarily those you might think of. These could include being a nurse representative on committees and councils. When you take on a role like this, you will have a direct say in how processes are run, and how you would change the way procedures are carried out. This might be in terms of education, training, patient safety, procedure and policies, or even professional development. It could be anything that you find interesting and important.
  
When you volunteer for leadership roles, you are proving to those above you that you have the skills you need to move forward in your career. Not only that, but you will learn a huge amount and be able to supplement your DNP and other qualifications with real-life, hands-on experience that is like no other, and that will certainly help you to develop your role further. 

Share Your Knowledge 

When you are able to share your knowledge as a nurse, you are helping in all kinds of ways, including potentially developing your career (although this will depend on the route you take when it comes to sharing your knowledge). 

You might, for example, publish a paper in a nursing or medical journal. These publications are usually highly regarded, and if your name is attached to a paper that is impressive and perhaps even instigates any kind of change within the nursing profession, your career will be enhanced greatly. Rather than looking for positions yourself, employers will come to you with lucrative and exciting offers. Of course, this may not happen on the back of just one paper, so you will need to spend time developing a series of ideas and having them published. If you know that you can do this and that you are good at it, then it could be an ideal way to develop as a nurse. 

You can also create a blog and publish information there. This may be less in-depth than a full paper would be, so if you have less time or don’t necessarily have ambitions to become a published author as well as a nurse, this option could work out well for you. 

Set Goals 

It is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to truly develop their career without having goals in mind. If you have a goal that you want to work towards, you will know just what opportunities are going to be beneficial and which ones are going to take you away from the path you should be working on. 

Before you can develop your career, in other words, you need to know what you are developing it into. In order to do this, you should research your career thoroughly and determine what it is that excites you the most. Once you know, you’ll also know that you need to start working towards. 

Setting goals to reach along the way is a good idea. You won’t feel quite so overwhelmed when the entire process is broken down into smaller, more manageable elements that you can reach one by one. You might not even realize quite how far you have come until you look back at what you have achieved, but this doesn’t matter as long as you have goals to reach and an end result in mind. 

Stretch Yourself 

The problem for many people is that they fall into their comfort zone and they stay there. Even if they feel slightly discontented, the idea of changing anything and moving forward in any way is much less appealing than remaining exactly where they are. 

If you’ve already gained a number of different nursing qualifications such as your DNP, then you’ll know that nursing takes hard work and dedication, and, if you want to enhance your career, you must step out of your comfort zone as soon as possible. It will be difficult, and that’s the point; most people won’t do it, but if you want to develop your career, you must. You must leave your comfort zone behind and truly stretch yourself. Try to do elements of the job you’ve never done before in terms of making yourself a better nurse—what is missing from your career right now, and how can you obtain it? 

Go Back To School 

Following on from the idea above, one of the best ways to stretch yourself and develop your career is to go back to school. You will absolutely be stepping out of your comfort zone because you will be in a new environment and you will be learning new skills. You might looking to enhance your current knowledge with a DNP, or you could decide you want to specialize and therefore you might choose a course that will help you do just that. The choice is yours, and there is a lot of choice so take the time to think carefully about what you are going to do. 

Of course, going back to school full time might actually be detrimental to your career, even if you have taken the time out to learn more and become a better nurse. Luckily, you can study online for a DNP or any other qualification. This means you don’t have to stop working in order to learn how to develop your nursing career, as you can work at a time that suits you and at your own pace. This flexible, convenient option is why so many nurses choose to study online. They don’t have to leave their work or start working part time, and neither do they have to be at a certain place at a certain time on a regular basis in order to learn, which can be hard when you work shifts.




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