While a good number of nurses are perfectly content with their current position, a lot of them are considering moving to a greater role. Lots of nurses also get into the field intending to advance their career later on, and nursing is a field that offers tons of different ways for nurses to specialize themselves.
Some challenges come with earning your credentials while working, however. Before you start, you should know what it’s really like to work and study at the same time so you can make adjustments that will make the process easier for you. Here are a few tips for nurses who want to advance their careers.
Speak with Other Nurses First
You should speak with other nurses who decided to advance their careers while working and see what they have to say. You should have no trouble finding them where you’re working, but you could also join some nurse groups. You should speak with nurses in the positions you’re considering too. They will be able to expose some of the realities of the job so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
You should try to find a mentor in your organization or somewhere else as well. They may be able to warn you of some things you weren’t aware of, and they could help open doors up for you. Having a mentor that’s close to a leadership role and has a wide network could give you a lot of reach. Having someone vouching for you will also go a long way, and might be just what it takes for you to stand out when applying for a role.
Don’t Limit Yourself
If you have an associate’s degree and think that a master’s degree is too far away or you have a bachelor’s degree and you think that a doctorate is out of reach, think again. There are tons of programs that will allow you to get your credentials much faster, and these are even open to people who don’t have a nursing background.
Accelerated programs allow working nurses to fast-track their way to higher credentials and most of them are dispensed online. You could get a DNP with no GRE in as little as 40 months if you have a bachelor’s degree, and an online BSN to DNP with no GRE from an accredited school will get you the exact same training and recognition as any other nurse.
If you can adapt yourself to online learning, online programs are by far the best option for nurses who want to further their education while keeping their jobs. They are convenient and allow students to fit their studies around their work schedule better. They may also be the only option for single parents with heavy parental duties.
Consider Working or Studying Full Time
Some people can work and study full-time, but it’s definitely not for everybody. Don’t overestimate yourself and consider going to school part-time at the beginning if you still need to work full-time. That will give you a clearer idea of whether you’re actually cut out for this and if you can handle a full-time program.
If you feel like you could work part-time and still stay afloat, consider the option. Or maybe you could move to a three-day schedule and work 12-hour shifts. This would give you a bit more space, but it could still be difficult for you, so look at all of your options, and don’t hesitate to ask your higher-ups if they would be ready to accommodate you.
Look at Opportunities Where You Are
The best place for nurses to start looking for advancement opportunities is where they work. Even if there aren’t any openings at the moment, there might be some in the future.
Look at people in roles that interest you and look at their age. Also, ask administrators if they think there will be openings soon, and where. This will allow you to prepare yourself and get the type of credentials needed for these roles. Making administrators know that you would be interested in these roles early might help you get in front of the line of candidates faster when they open up too.
Start Looking at Future Trends
We would also suggest that you start looking at the future trends in the world of nursing. You should have an idea of what the employment numbers look like for the specialization you were thinking of and see if they’re going in an upwards or downwards direction.
Changes in technology can also affect demand in certain roles or open up new roles you may not be aware of, such as nursing informatics, telecare nursing, and robotics, for instance. You need to have a clear view of where the field is heading, and prepare yourself to have the credentials that will be in high demand while avoiding those that are becoming obsolete.
Get Familiar with the Environment You’ll Be Working in
This is something you should be doing before you even start looking for a program. You should have a list of programs and specializations and an idea of what your dream job(s) would be like. You should then find a way to get into the work environments you’ll be working in to see if this is something you could see yourself doing for the rest of your career.
The best way to do that would be to do some shadowing or volunteer work. You could also ask administrators if you can move to a unit closer to what you want to do, even if it’s temporary. This will give you a chance to not only look at what the working conditions are like, but to also speak with nurses there and get their impressions.
If you are thinking of advancing your career as a nurse, follow these few tips. You first have to make sure that you’re up for the challenge and get as much information about the field you were thinking of entering before making the jump.