As a nurse, you are always focused on improving the lives of the people around you, but it is important to take a moment to reflect on your own wellbeing and the steps you can take to advance in your career.

Nurses have many options to grow and develop their skills, so do not worry if you feel overwhelmed. There is a path out there for you.

Below are some of the options available for those who want to pursue and advance a nursing career:

1. Become a specialist

Nurse practitioners are currently in short supply in the job market, so that makes it a great specialty to focus on if you want to advance your career. There are also several other advanced practice nursing roles you can train for, such as a certified nurse-midwife (CRNA) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

You will need to return to education, earn qualifications for these roles, and gain certification and state licensing. The pay and job benefits of becoming a specialist are considerable.

2. Take on new responsibilities

Nursing is already a demanding day-to-day job, but one great way of differentiating yourself from your co-workers is to take on additional responsibilities. These tasks may not be directly related to your role. You could focus on being a health advocate and educating patients, for example, or completing tasks with more complexity.

Taking initiative and focusing on self-improvement can develop your skills and show your employer you can excel in an advanced role, which could lead to a promotion.

3. Find a mentor

Creating a support network is an excellent way to ease the stress of working in hectic, fast-paced environments and minimize the chances of burnout. It could also kick-start your career.

Seeking a mentor’s advice can help you make informed decisions about your next career step. Talking to people and finding sponsors and mentors can really help you develop skills and knowledge.

4. Join a professional organization

Another useful way to network and broaden your horizons is by joining a nursing association or organization. You will meet like-minded professionals and potentially discover organically what you want to do next in your life and career. Many of these organizations also offer assistance and support for nurses seeking new roles.

Following nursing blogs and keeping up with new and emerging trends in the industry will also help you to find direction in your career.

5. Customize your skill set to meet changing demands

The healthcare industry is constantly evolving. Qualified nurses are in the best position to meet the demand for new jobs and customize their skill set to emerging trends to boost their career prospects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities for nurses to increase significantly during the next ten years. The number of openings for licensed practical and vocational nurses is set to jump by 6%, which is equivalent to 58,800 new jobs yearly.

This trend is prevalent across the industry and applies to many job roles. The demand for registered nurses will be strong too, with 203,200 new jobs set to be created on average annually.

There are other specialties with even higher rates of projected growth. If you are considering becoming a nurse midwife or nurse practitioner, you can look forward to a 40% increase in job opportunities. With pressing skills shortages, now is a great time to consider how you can use your current nursing role as a springboard for long-term career success.

6. Earn a degree

Nurses with a BSN degree can boost their career prospects by pursuing advanced qualifications. An online FNP master’s degree program is a excellent solution for ambitious nurses who want to learn advanced skills, such as pathophysiology and become nurse practitioners (NPs).

As an NP, you can have more flexibility with your work hours and potentially earn a more lucrative salary. You will also be able to perform advanced duties as a recognized specialist, making your work more fulfilling and rewarding.

7. Keep a diary

It’s difficult to determine a future career path without taking stock of your current situation and thinking about your aspirations for the next decade or longer. Writing down your thoughts and documenting a few potential career advancement options can help you determine exactly what you want to do professionally.

This is good advice, even if you are happy in your current role, as you might find that there are courses or opportunities available that could unlock higher earning potential or job satisfaction.

8. Set goals

As an extension to documenting your thoughts and aspirations, you can also start setting out a clear action plan with deadlines to help you achieve your goals. This action plan should outline each step, even if it’s a minor one.

For example, you could note down that you need to spend an hour researching how to become a nurse practitioner or contact a local health facility to ask about shadow nursing. This will help make nursing career progression a reality rather than just a task you think about and then put off for another day.

9. Speak to your employer

While you might want to leave your current role, your existing employer can help you set a viable career path. If you have a good relationship with a manager or supervisor, you can ask them what roles suit you.

This is also a great time to have a one-on-one with a higher-up to see whether advancing your career is possible with your current employer. They might be ready and willing to support you as you gain new qualifications or apply for a new role. Speaking to fellow workers and peers will also assist you in this process.

10. Take a brief sabbatical

If you’re completely at a crossroads, then you could take a brief sabbatical or vacation to take stock of your current situation. Sabbaticals don’t always mean time off from work. You could take one to volunteer for a charity or do project work for several weeks with a different company.

This is a great time to reflect and redouble your efforts, potentially with a new career in mind. Many options are available to you if you want to advance your career. With a proactive approach and enthusiasm, you can take your nursing career to the next level.

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