Registered Nursing is one of the most flexible professions that a person can enter into. Within the same hospital, a nurse can switch job roles and feel like they are a world away from their previous job. For example, a bedside nurse can switch roles by working as a Nurse Informaticist (with the appropriate training and education) who does not perform patient care. Registered Nurses (RNs) may have the option of working from home such as a health coach for a insurance company. Also, they have the opportunity to travel the world as a Travel Nurse.
While Registered Nursing is synonymous with career options, most job options are only available to nurses that have traditional career experience in a patient care setting. For example, it is highly unlikely that a nurse without patient care experience will be hired as a health coach. Also, most travel nurse positions require a minimum of one-two years’ experience. The career experiences and the education that a nurse pursues should be directly reflective of their career goals.
However, there are several general recommendations that may help nurses down the path to career success:
#1 Career Experience
Obtain at least 3-5 years of patient care experience. Some jobs may require more. However, this time-range lets potential employers know that the nurse has some valuable experience and is not a newbie. The specialty that a nurse works in should be beneficial to their long term goals. For example, if a nurse’s primary career goal is to be a travel nurse, then working as a float nurse would help to support their overall goal.
#2 Self Reflection
Nurses should use the process of self-reflection when planning their career. When nurses critically consider what they genuinely value and desire in life, then their career goals should align. Often when nurses discover that they are unhappy or “burned out” in their careers they find that their actions did not match their own personal needs. For example, a nurse is considering going to school to be a nurse practitioner, but would also like to be a travel nurse. Nurse practitioner clinicals require that students stay in one geographical location. They can not complete clinicals and travel at the same time. Which is more important? Making the wrong choice can lead to career misery.
#3 Career Plan
Draft an official career plan. After using self reflection to determine your goals, write them down with a course of action. Determine exactly what is required to succeed and then stick to the plan. It is not unusual to change career goals. Keep the plan updated to reflect the career goal changes and their course of action.
It is a good idea for nurses to obtain as many related certifications and classes as their current job will pay for. Education is always a valuable addition to a resume. Obtaining a certification or advanced degree may not immediately lead to a pay raise, but it could open doors in the future.
#5 Career Portfolio
Maintain an organized career portfolio with copies of continuing education credits, certifications, career plan, and an updated resume. When those rare job opportunities occur, a current portfolio is always at hand to present to a prospective employer.
Choose your nursing specialty wisely but don’t be afraid to change your goals if you find you are uncomfortable with your choices. Remember nursing is a flexible profession which can be molded to fit your lifestyle.
Have you used any of these or other tips in your nursing career? Leave your comments below.