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Climbing With Care: Advice For Nurses Who Want To Climb The Career Ladder

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If you are a working nurse, or even if you’re just considering a career in nursing… thank you. On behalf of the people of your nation. Thank you! Since the days of Florence Nightingale, nurses have been one of the most valuable resources in perpetuating good health while ensuring that when we are afflicted by injury or illness we are treated with the care, patience, compassion, and expertise that we need and deserve.

While nursing is a valuable and important discipline, sometimes it’s not always valued by patients, bosses, doctors and even governments. When UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, cut the nursing bursaries that had been a great facilitator of social mobility, a lot of would-be nurses from less well-off backgrounds felt that the career ladder had been kicked out from under them. Nonetheless, if there’s one skill that all nurses show with aplomb, it’s the ability to thrive under adversity.

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Nursing Careers

While nursing is one of the most rewarding and meaningful ways to make a living, it can be incredibly challenging. Though the weeks may be short, the days are long, with twelve-hour shifts almost always turning into fourteen-hour shifts, and the rigors of the day can put a dent in even the sunniest and cheerful of dispositions. But try not to let the challenging conditions and long hours detract from the fact that you are a highly skilled and expertly trained professional with literally a hundred opportunities to develop and progress in your career. With the right training and experience, a career in nursing can open up a lot of doors in both the private and the public sector. It all depends on where your personal goals, skills and passions lie.

“By pursuing a career in nursing, you will be sure to have a rewarding future full of personal growth, good earnings and an increasing level of responsibility as your progress through your career.” – nursejournal.org

Nursing is less of a career ladder and more of a tree. There are numerous different branches to which you can progress, but you need to be careful and choose your path wisely. Here are some hints that will guide you through the next step in your career journey…

Choose a path then work on building the relevant skills

Career planning is at the root of success, and in order to plan effectively, you need to keep one eye on the destination while keeping another on the here and now. But when so much of your working day feels like a struggle for survival it can be difficult to think strategically. If you’re unsure of how to progress or where you want to progress to, perhaps it might be worth concentrating on the aspects of the job that you find most rewarding and go from there. Perhaps you enjoy working with children and would like to specialize in pediatric nursing or maybe even become a nurse in a local school. On the other hand, maybe one of the most appealing parts of the job is helping to train and mentor colleagues who are new to the profession and you would like to get into the training and educational side of things.

Nursing careers are very rewarding, and you’re doing one of the most underappreciated jobs in the world. Without nurses, hospitals – and other health practices – would fall apart. It’s a career packed full of prospects, with plenty of room to grow.

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When you have a clear focus on where you want to go, it becomes much easier to develop the portfolio of skills and start building contacts to facilitate that next step up.

Look like a professional

In order for the people who may be responsible for your next career move to take notice of you, one of the best first steps is a smart and professional appearance. Of course, this isn’t always easy when the front of your scrubs look like you’ve lost an argument with an 18-month-old who really didn’t want to eat their tomato soup. Still, it’s possible to look good, even in scrubs. Not only do they look a little neater to make you feel more professional and confident, but they’re also more comfortable with a greater range of motion, which is perfect for those long 14 hour days.  

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Look for opportunities to develop your skills, wherever you can find them

If you’re still unsure how to progress, or if you’re generally perfectly happy where you are (but a slight shift in focus and a better salary wouldn’t go amiss) you may find clarity simply in developing the skills that you already have. Nursing is a highly technical and skilled profession and developing the wealth of skills that you pick up on the job daily can lead to unprecedented career progression as an Advanced Practice Nurse. For example, you may want to talk to a doctor about becoming a Nurse Practitioner. NPs are in relatively short supply and are invaluable in lightening a doctor’s workload.

Try and get more experience in conducting physicals, making diagnoses, writing prescriptions and helping patients to manage chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. These are the bread and butter of an NP and if you can get a wealth of experience behind you before training starts, you’ll be a shoe in. There are also possibilities for you in anesthesiology, midwifery or becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist. CNS’ are nurses who dedicate their skills to a specific area of practice.

This may involve focusing on care for a particular illness like cancer or diabetes or it may involve working with a particular group such as seniors or children. As the role of a nurse is multifaceted, you’ll have ample opportunities to try everything and eventually find an area where your passions most lie in which you can later specialize.

Be proactive

It goes without saying that while you should always keep an eye out for opportunities to grow, develop, learn (formally, informally or both) and develop within your job you should also look outside of it too. While most nurses enjoy a program of continuing professional development pretty much from day one, it’s true that some practices are better at developing their personnel than others. Thus, you should be proactive and use your free time (precious though it may be) to look for nursing jobs with better opportunities for development or progression if you’re not getting the development and guidance you need at work.

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