How Nurses Can Improve Their Career Prospects

Smiling female healthcare professional looks at the camera while in hospital hallway. She is standing with her arms crossed.

Once you have qualified as a nurse and gotten some experience under your belt, you may be wondering where your career can go next. Many new RNs work as general nurses for a while to get their resume started and learn what they like and dislike about the job, but you may be wondering, ‘what’s next?’ The good news is, nursing offers lots of interesting career options, and here’s how nurses can improve their career prospects and climb the ladder at work.

Think About Where You Want Things to Go

OK, so even the best-planned careers do not always go the way you want, but it is a good idea to have some sort of idea where you want to go next. It’s worth researching the different nursing specialties available and thinking about what kind of path you might take. You should think about:

  • What kind of environment do you thrive in? Do you prefer things fast paced, or would you rather have time to spend with individual patients?
  • Would you prefer to work in a hospital, clinic, or another setting?
  • What kind of patients would you like to work with? Adults, children, the elderly, or a mixture of all ages?
  • What kind of nurses are in demand in your area? Would you be willing to relocate for the right role?

By honestly thinking about what you want out of your role, you can narrow down your options and start researching specific areas. You do not need to pinpoint the exact role, but the above questions will let you know what kind of things to look out for when you browse job adverts.

See What Roles Are in Demand

While there is a significant shortage of nurses, specific roles can be quite competitive and are usually difficult to get into. For example, 9-5 clinic roles, school nursing, or anything where you do not have to work shifts.

You should do some research into which specialties currently have the highest demand, as you will have a wider pool of vacancies to choose from and are likely to command a higher salary. Some of the most in-demand nurse specialties include nurse anesthetists, which has topped the list for several years, home health nurses, and nursing practitioners. Of course, you should not go into a specialty just because it is in-demand, but it is certainly a bonus and means you will find career progression easier.

Further Your Nursing Education

Nursing is an excellent career for those who want to learn new things. If you want to take your career to the next level, you’ll likely need to undertake further training, and the good news is, it’s possible to study flexibly, so there’s no need to go back to college full-time. Baylor University offer DNP FNP programs online, so you can fit studying into your busy schedule. FNP – family nurse practitioner is an increasingly in-demand specialism, as you deal with people who have minor acute illnesses, often in a clinic. While you work under a physician, you get much more involved in diagnostics and treatment, so it is an exciting role with a lot of responsibilities.

There are also many other DNP courses you can take, which include midwifery, neonatal care, nurse leadership, and pediatrics. While a DNP is hard work, the good news is, it pays off. DNP qualified nurses can earn six-figure salaries, and this doctorate can give you access to some of the most interesting roles in nursing.

Arrange to Shadow or Volunteer

Nursing is a profession where there can be a lot of ‘grass is greener’ type thinking. Those who work in hospitals may think nurses in clinics have a cushy job, while those in slower-paced environments may envy the colleagues who are dashing around the ER or ICU because it seems so much more exciting. If you have a specialism in mind, then there is only one way to find out if you will really like it, and that is to try it out.

Shadowing is quite common in nursing, so you may want to call up a department you are thinking about joining and see if they will let you shadow a nurse for the day. They are usually receptive, and the worst they can say is no. When you shadow a nurse, try to find some time to ask them about how they got into the job and what they honestly love and hate about it.

Also, look out for any volunteering opportunities in relevant areas. For example, those looking to become an FNP could look for free clinics where they can help, which is a positive for both parties. Volunteer work is more in-depth, and you can try the role out for longer before you commit to training or a new job.

Network

You may think networking is just for people in corporate jobs, but the truth is, networking can help anyone land the career they want.

Most nurses are not naturals at networking, as they tend to focus more on other people than promoting themselves, but there are many places where they can get started.

  • Social networking sites – there are several social networking sites for nurses, where you can talk about the industry, get career tips and potentially hear about openings before they are advertised
  • LinkedIn – again, while the site may seem corporate-focused, lots of healthcare professionals use LinkedIn, and it is good to have a positive presence on the site when you apply for jobs
  • Nursing conferences – these often include formal networking events, as well as informal opportunities such as evening drinks where you can meet other nurses
  • Local groups – many areas have social meetups for nurses

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ultimately, you must take initiative and step out of your comfort zone to enjoy career development. When you are a hard worker, your employer will want to keep you where you are, so simply grinding away and doing extra hours brings no guarantee of promotion. It is better to invest time in training, networking, and self-improvement, so when the job of your dreams comes up, you are ready to make it yours.

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