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5 Simple Ways to Advance Your Nursing Career

Aug 19, 2020
The Trusted Team

We recently hosted a nursing event focused on how you, as a nurse, can advance your career (watch a recording of the event here). Whether it’s through continued education, mentorship, or networking, there are numerous routes you can take to get to that next stage in your career.

Without further ado, let’s get into it. How can you advance your nursing career?

Nursing Career Statistics

For the 18th year in a row, the public ranked nursing as the most honest and ethical profession in a 2020 Gallup poll. Eighty-five percent of respondents said nurses’ standards were “very high” or “high.”

Additionally, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has forecasted a faster-than-average 12% growth in nursing jobs by 2028. This percentage translates to potentially more than 371,000 new nursing jobs in the coming years. 

Education

Is it important to have a Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing (BSN)? To get started, no. To get to that next stage? Most likely. Yes, this means you might have to go back to nursing school, at least part time.

Although the overall demand for the number of working nurses is increasing sharply over time, so too are the educational expectations on these nurses. More and more so it’s expected that nurses should be fully engaged with other health professionals and assume leadership roles in redesigning care in the United States. 

To ensure its members are well-prepared, the profession should institute residency training for nurses, increase the percentage of nurses who attain a bachelor's degree to 80 percent by 2020 (currently 59%), and double the number who pursue doctorates. 

woman in dress with graduation cap on nursing education continued education


Experience

Now, there’s all kinds of experience, and you might have quite the mixture. What’s important is how you use it. Leverage your prior experience into your current/next nursing job or career (everything from a barista to a nanny); there’s always something you can carry over. Those skills matter and often translate to the bedside.

Also, keep in mind that what sets you apart from others in your field is your experience beyond your education (which might be very similar to other candidates). You should also hang your hat on any leadership and customer service experience you have. Remember, you are a sum of your life's experience (don’t forget to use these them)!

If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start or how to use your past experience, consider this: What are you really good at it, and why does the employer in question need those skills you've acquired through your experience?

Mentorship

There are actually two types of mentorship, Formal vs. Informal. Neither is better than the other or can exist in a vacuum. Formal mentorship usually takes the form of a residency program, preceptor, teacher, or otherwise that guides you through a structured program or timeline.

On the other hand, informal mentorship takes the form of short or long-term relationships, typically more social than professional, whereby guidance and mentorship occurs through simple conversation and experience sharing. 

Additionally, variety is key. It’s ok, and even recommended, to utilize a combination of both mentorship types. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll naturally come into contact with and make use of both types organically as you move through your professional and personal life.

Ultimately, you should make an effort to establish mentors in your life, and you should choose mentors that do what you want to do or have the qualities you seek to have.

two people sitting at desk looking at notebook nurse mentorship


Networking

Now, the term “networking” doesn’t inspire excitement in most of us, but fortunately or unfortunately, it’s critical to growth in any field. Aside from the stereotypical “wine and dine,” facility event-type events, what are some ways to grow your professional network?

Here are some alternative networking options:

  • Join professional nursing organizations
  • Volunteer
  • Do community work
  • Collaborate with communities of faith
  • Participate in more nursing events
  • Join governance boards/committees where you work

Planning

Lastly, planning. You don’t have to try to read the future, but you need to at least consider the options. What you water grows, so are you sowing your career goals? Do your actions align with these goals?

Here are some additional questions to keep in mind:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
  • What are you naturally good at? 
  • If you could do anything without fail, what would it be?

In summary, there are a few ways to further your nursing career, all of which rely upon at least some interaction with your professional community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you, ask for help, and get started (even if you’re not 100% sure where you’re going to end up).

For more nursing resources, tips and tricks, and access to your own Nurse Advocate, create a free Trusted profile!