DETROIT – One of the best things about a career in nursing is that nursing is always changing and evolving. There are lots of career opportunities coming up every day, with different and varied patient needs calling for specialized nurses with specialized skills. If you are already practicing and making a difference in patient’s lives, you have already accomplished a lot more than many people ever will. However, there are still opportunities for advancing your career. Before we look at how you can advance your nursing career, here are a few reasons why doing so is a great idea.

Access To New Nursing Roles

There are really two main ways of pursuing new job roles in nursing: getting additional training and certifications and getting into leadership roles. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can take certifications that open doors into varied nursing career specialisms such as ER nursing, neonatal nursing, community nursing, and more. There are also additional roles in specialized departments, educator and academic realms, management, and advanced practice registered nursing titles.

To get into nursing leadership positions and pursue the career opportunities available, you need an advanced nursing degree, usually a master’s degree, or a master’s degree in nursing with a business focus.

As you can see, there are so many roles to pursue whether you want to get into a specialized nursing role, a specialty role, educator role, or administration.

Improved Job Satisfaction

Although it is one of the most rewarding career choices in the world, nursing is also very demanding. This is one of the reasons why nurses experience burnout after caring for patients for years. This burnout can be caused by the high emotional stress of the job, long hours, high patient volume, and more.

Sometimes, a change of pace is all a nurse needs to feel invigorated in their career. Advancing your career means you will be in a position where you do not necessarily have to deal with the hectic nature of being a nurse. This is especially true when you get into administrative roles. It is even better when you realize that you can do a lot of good in an advanced nursing position.

For example, advanced practice registered nurses play a crucial part in easing the nursing shortage while nurse educators nurture the next generation of nurses. Those in research are helping come up with better patient care techniques and practices and having a significant impact on patient health, care, and mortality reduction.

Better Salary

Many of the advanced nursing roles you are interested in come with greater responsibilities and so they attract better compensation. Although nurses in advanced positions are paid better than junior nurses, their pay will depend on their role, the organizations and healthcare institutions they work for, as well as where they are located.

A general rule is that nurses with advanced training are paid about 20-30% more than registered nurses who do not hold advanced positions. Even completing a certification that leads to a salary bump can make a huge difference, as it can be the difference between pursuing a master’s or doctorate using a student loan or paying for it yourself.

Ways To Advance Your Nursing Career

Now that you understand why it is a good idea to advance your nursing career, we will look at some ways you can do so.

1. Invest In Education

Education is extremely important for nurses who want to advance their careers. With a certification or specialization in a specific area of nursing, nurses get a lot more opportunities to pursue the type of career they want. With so many opportunities available, a nurse can choose the positions that best fit them, in some cases going as far as choosing the position that best fits their lifestyles.

Nurses are also encouraged to go to school while working while earning their degrees or completing their specializations. This allows them to advance to higher positions as soon as they graduate or finish their programs, as they can use both the experience gained while completing the programs and its new certifications and degrees to apply for higher positions.

If you are thinking of climbing to the highest echelons of nursing, you should consider investing in a Doctor of Nursing (DNP) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The one question you might ask is what the differences between the two are. It is important to understand that in the DNP vs PhD discussion, no degree is better or higher than the other, they just lead to different career paths.

The DNP focuses more on patient outcomes and healthcare leadership while the Ph.D. focuses on scientific study. DNP holders apply the research done by Ph.D. holders to improve healthcare, healthcare systems, patient outcomes, and patient care. While DNP holders are directly involved in patient care, Ph.D. holders are involved in research and academia. This means that these two similar but albeit different doctorate degrees open up varied career paths depending on what you want to get out of your nursing career.

Nurses can also invest in dual master’s degrees. These are usually framed as master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees with specific areas of focus attached. This could be business administration or healthcare management for nurses who want to get into the business side of healthcare.

2. Establish Mentorship Relationships

Nurses face unique challenges every day and so they need to have someone to consult with, learn from, and ask for advice from. Such a mentor can be instrumental in helping avoid burnout, career dissatisfaction, and discovering new opportunities.

It is important to remember that mentor-mentee relationships take time to develop and they cannot be forced. Nurses who want to be mentored have to identify senior nurses who are ready to mentor and who they feel comfortable with. A good way to find out if a senior nurse is open to mentoring is to ask questions, for advice or guidance and see how they respond.

It is also advisable to seek a mentor outside the institutions or organizations you work for. This is because they will be in a better position to give you an outsider’s perspective into nursing, managing, and caring for patients, as well as getting into the positions you would like to get into as there is no competition.

Nurses who cannot approach or find a mentor should try to find out if the institutions they work for have such programs.

3. Learn to Network

There is a common misconception that networking is only viable for those in business, but this is wrong. Nurses should learn to network both inside and outside healthcare if they want to advance their careers. Meeting new people, exchanging ideas, and providing solutions to common problems are all great ways of getting into the circles of nurses you admire. It is also important to try to network with those you share common interests with, as these interests can help remove most of the friction associated with meeting new people.

Joining a professional organization is another great way to form connections outside your circle. Doing so can help you connect with people across disciplines, and this opens up various opportunities. Depending on the organizations you join, you can find a mentor willing to take you under them, colleagues who know of job opportunities and positions you would be interested in, and people who can give you career guidance whenever you need it.

Joining a professional organization can also lead to opportunities to join conferences, training sessions, and continuing education, all of which can be instrumental in helping you advance your career.

4. Always Maintain Professionalism

No matter where you are in your career, it is important to remain professional at all times. Honesty, trustworthiness, patient confidentiality, respect, strong interpersonal skills, and a great attitude can go a long way in helping your career. Senior nurses want to work with high levels of professionalism and your professionalism can get you noticed so you remain in the minds of those who are likely to advocate for you.

Additionally, watch how you carry yourself. Your physical appearance matters as much as your knowledge and how you carry yourself, especially in settings where you interact with patients a lot, which is most nursing positions.

Lastly, keep your social media and online life “clean”. Many employers are going to look through your social media channels to get a sense of who you are and to see if you could be a liability for their institutions. There are reports of senior nurses and hospital executives removing great candidates from consideration because of their social media profiles or personal website.

Regardless of whether you have been a nurse for a decade or are just starting your career, there are always career advancement opportunities in nursing. Start by noting what you want with your career and what path you could take to get what you want to go. Then, take the steps needed to get there. Remember there is no limitation to how many times you can switch career paths in nursing as long as you are doing what you love.

Author: Maggie Hammond. Proud mama to two little people, and has one too many furry friends. Passionate about alternative medicine, education, the great outdoors and animal welfare.