Going one step further – Enhancing your nursing career

Jennifer E. Engen

Nurses frequently report feeling neglected or stunted in their professional development with services under stress, tighter budgets and a lack of resources. Yet, success in career development often depends on taking a proactive approach and putting yourself out there. This may appear intimidating initially, but we have some excellent advice to help you get started.


If you’re stuck in a rut, seeking a change or feeling under-challenged, it’s time to take charge of your career. Avoid the temptation to hope for things to change on their own, and instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, create your own. Begin taking a more proactive approach, focusing on all the benefits it will provide. 


There are many courses, such as a post master’s FNP program, that can quickly help you get to where you want to be. This post-study master’s program aims to provide an educational path to specialization in an area other than that obtained in the master’s or doctoral program. In addition, the program is intended to enhance or broaden the clinical or management capabilities of master’s-prepared nurses who are considering a role expansion or change. There are other courses, as well as other methods and ways to stand out from the crowd and progress your nursing career, which we will touch upon throughout this post. 


To advance in your nursing career, consider what you want to accomplish. Do you want to stay in clinical work and directly assist patients? Do you want to take on managerial responsibilities, gain academic knowledge or collaborate with multidisciplinary teams? Nursing is a highly adaptable profession; you can work as a general nurse on various wards or specialize in specific areas.


You became a nurse because you care about your patients and want to make a difference in the lives of those around you. You are also concerned with your career satisfaction — you are committed to progressing, increasing your earning potential and learning new skills. You can always do things to advance in your profession, whether you’re a new nurse looking to make a name for yourself or an experienced nurse looking to shake things up.


Nursing degrees


Nurses make up most of the healthcare workforce. They are essential in ensuring quality care, from a nurse assisting in the ER to a senior nurse administrator on a hospital’s executive team. Do you know what you should do next? Check out our guide to the various levels of nursing degrees and what you can do with each.


Diploma in Practical Nursing


Earning your diploma in practical nursing is the quickest way to get started as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs provide primary nursing care and collaborate with RNs and physicians in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, hospices and urgent care clinics. The demand for LPNs is expected to grow by 9% through 2030, creating over 63,000 new jobs. LPNs earn around $48,000 annually, with the top 10% earning more than $65,000. Many nurses begin their careers as LPNs before advancing their education and careers through an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree program.


Associate degree in Nursing


Students can enroll in ADN programs at community colleges and universities. With full-time enrollment, ADN programs typically take two years to complete. Part-time students should aim for a four-year degree. Admission to most schools requires a 2.0-2.5 GPA, a high school diploma or GED and a background check. An ADN concentrates on clinical skills. Common areas of study include adult acute and chronic disease, maternal and child health and mental health nursing. This degree requires approximately 700 clinical hours on average (NCLEX) to qualify for the National Council Licensure Examination.


Bachelor’s degree in Nursing


While RNs can begin working with as little as an ADN, practitioners frequently choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or complete RN-to-BSN programs because of the benefits of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. An ADN, for example, focuses on the technical skills required of RNs, whereas a BSN provides knowledge and skills that prepare graduates for leadership roles. BSN programs include liberal arts coursework focusing on ethics, legal issues, informatics and research. BSNs also teach essential skills such as critical thinking, compassion, effective communication and organization. Anatomy, social and behavioral sciences and science technologies are among the required courses. Through clinical coursework, this degree also provides plenty of hands-on experience.


Students have access to a variety of test preparation programs. Nursing programs, on the other hand, typically offer NCLEX-RN preparation. In addition, BSN coursework prepares graduates to pursue advanced nursing degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Earning a BSN also opens up more job opportunities. RNs with a BSN, for example, are eligible for unit management and specialty nursing positions.


Master of Science in Nursing degree


A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is for nurses who want to work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). The curriculum is a more specialized MSN program than a general nursing degree. You’ll focus on a specific area of study while also taking advanced courses in leadership, management, healthcare policy and research.


Program requirements vary, but MSNs are typically designed for licensed RNs who have already completed a bachelor’s degree. Some MSN programs admit RNs with associate degrees, allowing them to earn an MSN without first completing a four-year BSN program. An RN-to-MSN bridge program covers the same material that a BSN would have covered. They are fast-paced and intense and are intended for students who want to finish their degree as soon as possible. With an MSN, you’ll be prepared to work as an APRN in your chosen field. To do so, you must have a state RN license and a national credential in your specialty.


Joint master’s degree


A joint master’s degree in nursing may be right for you if you want to earn an MSN and a complementary degree in less time than completing two separate programs. You’ll receive a solid education in nursing practice and theory and advanced skills in other areas that will help you tailor your career. Joint master’s degrees are intended for nurses who want to advance their careers to leadership positions. Remember that to pursue a joint degree, you must first gain admission to each program. As you’ll be working on two demanding course loads at the same time, these degrees are only for the most serious students.


Standing out from the crowd


Nursing career advancement can be exciting and overwhelming, and deciding to change takes courage. Where do you begin? What can you add to your already-overflowing plate to make a genuine difference in your career and happiness? We enlisted the assistance of some veteran nurses to help us identify some ideas for achieving your nursing advancement objectives.


Find a mentor


Nurses face difficult situations daily that the average office worker does not comprehend. Finding someone with whom you can consult, seek advice and learn from can be highly beneficial in navigating your career. This can include finding someone to assist you in avoiding burnout or discovering new career opportunities. A mentor may also be able to connect you with people in their network or provide you with a professional reference for your next job or graduate program application.


If you want to find a mentor, look into formal mentoring programs offered by your employer, professional nursing organizations or the professional nursing group in your state. If that doesn’t work, ask your employer’s human resources office, reach out to a nursing-focused social media group or ask your coworkers if they know of anyone who might be interested in being a mentor.


Join a nursing organization


Joining a professional nursing organization can help you connect with people other than your current colleagues and nursing school contacts. These are people who can assist you in locating an advanced practice nurse to shadow or a nursing mentor. Nurses who belong to professional organizations may also be invited to or receive discounts on nursing conferences or continuing education courses. Members may also have access to employment assistance and other career resources. There’s bound to be one right for you among the more than 100 national nursing organizations.


Remain positive


Having good intentions appears to be second nature as a nurse. However, with long shifts and little downtime, it’s easy to become exhausted or overwhelmed, which can harm your intent. Try to maintain an upbeat, positive attitude at all times; your demeanor directly impacts your patients and can play a significant role in your career advancement, particularly if you seek an administrative position.


Always be the best you


In nursing, intuition is significant, so always listen to it. Know your limits. Rest when necessary, and don’t work extra hours if there’s a remote chance you won’t be at your best. Finally, consider your actions and how they fit into your overall strategy. Your decisions today affect your chances of advancement in the future.


Read nursing blogs


Experience from other nurses can provide far more insight than you might have imagined. They may reveal information about a specialty or facility you were unaware of. In addition, thousands of blogs are out there, meaning thousands of new ideas can be generated. You could become more knowledgeable about specific fields, learn about the latest ideas and trends in nursing practice from seasoned experts, and better understand how healthcare systems work.


Try a different field


Working in as many nursing units as possible is one way to accomplish this in nursing. It can assist you in discovering what you like and dislike before committing. It also helps you regardless of your final decision because nurses with experience in more than one unit are more valuable to hospitals because they can meet needs as daily goals change. This breadth of experience can also help you stand out as a candidate for management positions.


Nursing areas


When you think of nurses, you probably picture people in scrubs tending to patients, taking vital signs, filling out charts and providing other bedside care. While this is true for many RN positions, it is far from the end. Nursing careers can take many different shapes, especially for those who supplement their general RN designation with specializations and credentials. Look at some nursing specializations that can take your nursing career in an unexpected direction.


Travel nursing


Being a travel nurse entails simply taking your skills on the road. While the nature of the job remains the same, you have the freedom to move around and explore different parts of the country while being adequately compensated. Indeed, if you have specialized skills that are in high demand, you may be able to find a travel nurse agency that will pay your moving expenses and offer a sign-on bonus. In addition, as a travel nurse, you can seek out the most competitive nursing offers and opportunities while exploring different parts of the country.


Travel nurses can expect to earn around $75,000 per year. Even if you are hired for short-term positions ranging from eight to 20 weeks or more, travel nursing agencies will be eager to place you in new positions if you do a good job. If you want to work as a travel nurse, talk to some agencies about opportunities and research cities where you might want to work to see if they are a good fit for you. Consider external factors such as cost of living and perks other than salary.


Nurse practitioners 


Nurse Practitioners (NP) are in short supply, mainly because they increasingly find themselves on the front lines of primary care. With such a wide range of responsibilities, NPs, who must have a master’s degree, a state license and knowledge of prescription medications, must be adaptable. They must also be self-sufficient, as it is not uncommon for them to be an area’s only source of primary care, particularly in rural areas. Salaries for NPs vary but are on the rise. The typical NP salary is $90,583. Consider higher-paying work settings, such as the ER, neonatal unit or a retail health clinic, to increase your income even further.


Nurse anesthetists


Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in the United States are among the most highly educated and well-paid advanced nurse professionals, with median salaries of $147,000. To sweeten the deal even more, CRNAs are now so trusted that their malpractice liability premiums are 39% lower than they were 15 years ago. Furthermore, some states permit CRNAs to practice without the supervision of a physician. CRNAs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and private practices. Most states require CRNAs to have an MSN from a field-accredited program. CRNAs must be licensed and certified as well.


Oncology nursing


Oncology nurses are highly trained in cancer treatment and assist patients in learning about their treatment options and remission status. In addition, oncology nurses will continue to monitor and treat their patients’ progress and symptoms. Select this specialty if you are looking for a nursing career that will allow you to care for a patient suffering from a critical illness and educate your patients and their families about treatments and possible outcomes.


Midwife nursing


Midwifery is one of the most rewarding careers in the nursing industry, and it is ideal for those with a caring, empathetic nature. Midwife nurses care for both mothers and babies during pregnancy, labor and the early stages of the postnatal period. They not only monitor health and well-being, but they also offer support and advice on how to deal with life with a newborn. In addition, many expectant parents regard their midwives as teachers and their first point of contact if they have any questions about bathing and feeding their babies.


Neonatal nursing


If you want to care for newborns but want to stay in one hospital, you might want to consider neonatal nursing. When a baby is born prematurely or with a condition, they will spend their first few weeks or months in a neonatal and special care baby unit, where they will be cared for by a neonatal nurse. The role will include various responsibilities, from preparing medication and keeping track of the baby’s care to assisting the parents.


This can be an extremely stressful and worrying time for parents with a newborn in the hospital, so a neonatal nurse must be able to provide the reassurance they require. As a neonatal nurse, you should expect varying shift patterns, both during the day and overnight, because the babies in the unit need 24-hour care. In addition, you will most likely collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as midwives and dieticians, to ensure that babies are in the best possible health before being discharged.

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