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How to Progress in Your Nursing Career

For many, nursing is their calling. It is their choice of career because they want to help people in need and change the lives of many. While it is no easy career to step into or do once you are qualified, it is, however, rewarding. For those who wish to put the wellbeing of others ahead of their own, being a nurse is the ideal career path.

But just because you want to put others first, it does not mean you should neglect your own needs, wants and desires. Think about yourself; do not forget about your own health – if you do not look after yourself, who is going to care for others?

There are many ways to progress your nursing career without neglecting your duties and your health. The following article is going to explore your options on how to do so:

Take responsibility for your future

Being a nurse is not for the fainthearted; you can work long hours, be on your feet for most of the hours of the day and have to deal with stressful situations constantly. However, if you want to progress your career, you cannot let the daily demands of the job hold you back. 

You need to take ownership of your career and take active steps to get you where you want to be in one year, five years, ten years’ time. Change will not happen by itself.

Ways in which you can be more proactive in your career include:

  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone 
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask for what you want 
  • Approach people who could help with your career progression 
  • Don’t let a ‘no’ hold you back 
  • Be constantly vigilant for new opportunities 
  • Carry out research into your preferred nursing roles 

Actively take time to think about your next career step

Day to day work can make it seem impossible to make future plans, but if you schedule a specific time each and every day to sit down and plan, research or even just think about your future in nursing, then this is a step in the right direction. It doesn’t matter if this is half an hour or even just 5 minutes; the important thing is that you are consistent. 

It can be helpful to write down what steps you have taken each day for future reference and to check that you are on track – elements you may want to explore include:

  • Researching different Post Master’s Certificates in Nursing such as an FNP Certificate, (Family Nurse Practitioner) or Midwifery Certificate 
  • Speaking to your local healthcare practice about shadowing 
  • Looking into volunteering options in your preferred field 
  • Attending recruitment open days at your local hospital 
  • Speaking to your manager about career progression opportunities 

Find out as much information as possible 

You don’t want to spend 3 or 4 years of your life studying towards a particular career and then discover that you do not like it. Therefore, it is vitally important that you carry out thorough research before embarking on a new degree program or taking on a new role. 

Plan your future career by:

  • Googling nursing fields you are interested in – find out everything you can about your preferred nursing career, including looking at personal accounts of nurses who have undergone training in this field. 
  • Reading relevant publications around your chosen nursing profession 
  • Joining nursing social media sites 
  • Speaking to other nurses about their experiences
  • Looking for any schemes available to nurses wanting to progress their career
  • Asking your boss for advice 

Check if your preferred role is in demand

As with any job, there is little point investing your time and money in becoming qualified for a role that is not in demand. Little demand means lots of competition for few jobs; not the ideal situation. 

Therefore, it is important that you do your research and ensure that there will be a demand for your chosen role in the future.

For example, FNP’s, or Family Nurse Practitioners, are highly in demand in the U.S, much more than RN’s. In fact, by 2026, there are expected to be an additional 56,100 FNP positions being made available. That is a lot of jobs for a qualified FNP. 

Elements that you should consider before undertaking a study program include:

  • Looking at the number of jobs currently available in your chosen role 
  • Researching the number of jobs at your chosen level that will be available in the next 5 years 
  • Checking that said jobs are available in your area (or how far you are prepared to travel for a job)
  • Finding out what specific qualifications you need to be accepted into your preferred role 

Local universities, online universities, and local nursing agencies should all be able to offer you invaluable advice on the current market and what you need to do to be successful in your preferred role. 

Network as much as possible 

As well as having the relevant qualifications, skills and experiences, finding a new job is just as much about who you know as it is how much you know. Therefore, you must try to talk to as many relevant people as possible; both when you are at work, as well as reaching out to relevant professionals in your own time. 

Ways in which you can network effectively in nursing include:

  • Attending recruitment drives, job fairs, and any relevant industry events 
  • Reaching out to other healthcare professionals on LinkedIn or other relevant professional social media sites
  • Talking to colleagues and peers at work for advice and information 
  • Reaching out to prospective employers 

Gain first-hand insight into your preferred role 

Once you have a good idea of the type of nursing you would like to go into, it can be a really good idea to try and gain some first-hand (sadly unpaid) experience in this role. You need to be certain that you can afford taking unpaid work, though. 

If you have carried out the above recommendation and reached out to a prospective employer, then you may already have an invaluable contact that can help you with this crucial step, but if not, speak to your current employer about opportunities to arrange an informal visit with a department that is relevant to your preferred role. 

Not only will you be able to see the type of work environment that you could one day be working in, an informal visit also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the role which can help you make an informed decision about your future in nursing. 

Although informal, it is important to remember that you want to appear professional, gracious and thoughtful when carrying out a visit; you never know, this could be the first time your future employer sees you in action. 

Impress others by:

  • Smiling at the employer, other employees and the patients 
  • Thanking whoever shows you around 
  • Showing enthusiasm and asking relevant questions 
  • Researching the employer before you visit so that you are knowledgeable 

It can also be helpful to explain to the employer the type of nursing role you would like to go into as well as explaining why you are interested in this specific job. This shows that you have thought about your future in nursing and that you have carried out any relevant research. You want to impress because, like most beginnings of a career, this can lead to greater opportunities. 

Decide what studying option works best for you 

Depending on your current commitments, both professional and personal, how you decide to gain the necessary qualifications to progress your career in nursing will vary. Whether you are a single parent, already have a job or can commit to studying full-time, it does not matter. There is an option for everyone. 

If you are currently working in a full-time nursing role and also have family commitments, then an online nursing program is ideal for you. 

The benefits of an online nursing program include:

  • The opportunity to carry out 100% of your coursework online 
  • Ongoing personalized support 
  • Clinical placements are often offered in your local area
  • They are flexible 
  • They are convenient 
  • You can often graduate in 2 years or less 
  • They are affordable 

Other options for nurses wanting to gain further qualifications include enrolling in a full or part-time local university course, although this will not be as flexible and can take longer if you have to gain your certificate on a part-time basis. 

Checklist for Career Progression in Nursing 

  1. Take ownership of your future career
  2. Schedule time to think about your nursing goals 
  3. Carry out extensive research  
  4. Check out the job market 
  5. Network effectively 
  6. Obtain first-hand experience 
  7. Get studying 
  8. Be a success in your chosen career 

Whatever your career aspirations, change can be hard, and progressing in a nursing career that is already highly demanding and time-consuming, is even harder. However, with roles in advanced nursing being more sought-after than ever before, not to mention lucrative, can you really afford not to pursue your ultimate career goals in nursing? 

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