5 Tips for Advancing Your Nursing Career
There are many reasons to further your career after becoming a CNA. Whether you have been planning to work your way up the clinical ladder as an entry level or if you only recently developed an interest in furthering your education and responsibilities as you have worked alongside other professionals and learned about their unique roles, you should consider these useful tips below to help you make this next exciting step.
1. Map Out a Plan
Knowing what your end goal is will help you best decide how to get there. Think about what you are interested in achieving or what sort of role you see yourself in long term. Maybe you admire the Registered Nurses (RNs) you work with and would like to take on the challenge of their role. Or maybe you would like to further your knowledge and responsibility even more and become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) like a Nurse Practitioner (NP). If you are someone who likes leadership roles, becoming a nurse manager and supervising those in direct patient care roles may appeal to you. Or perhaps you have realized that teaching is your passion and would like to work as a nurse educator.
Whatever path you think you may enjoy, it is important to think about how you will get there. What degree will be needed and how long does that take to complete? How much, if any, work experience is needed to advance to the next step? And what sort of professional connections and relationships are important to build along the way? You may need to be flexible or make changes to your plan along the way, but having a clear picture of your end goal will help you get there most efficiently.
2. Build Your Resume
Once you have a plan in place, you can get to work, quite literally. Building a strong resume and foundation of working experience is often one of the most important parts of advancing a career. Quality experience and demonstrable dedication to your work is helpful with getting into schools and programs and will also be more appealing to hiring managers when trying to find a job in your new role. Typically, at least a year in the same job is needed to show dedication and proficiency, often more to demonstrate excellence, so be committed. Educators and employers want to know that they are investing in someone they can count on and take seriously, so frequent job changes, leaving jobs unexpectedly or without good reason, or gaps in employment should be avoided when at all possible.
3. Build Your Reputation as a Professional
Arguably more important than how you appear on paper is how you are perceived in person by your peers and supervisors. Even if you are not in your ideal job at the moment, strive to create a professional image of dedication, hard work, and excellence and take your reputation at any job level seriously. Be on time, pitch in wherever needed, get to know your colleagues and your supervisors, and always ask where you can do better.
No matter where you currently stand on the clinical ladder, your role is an important part of providing quality patient care and earning the respect of those around you will serve you well as you work towards a higher goal. As you advance your career, you never know how you may end up coming in contact with those you have previously worked with. And if you find yourself teaching, supervising, or even treating them as patients, it is ideal to have them remember you with respect and trust.
4. Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities
Throughout your journey of career advancement, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of professionals who can serve as mentors to you, providing valuable advice and guidance or serving as a character reference when applying for programs or jobs. Take advantage of as many of these opportunities as you can. You never know when you may be building a relationship with someone who plays an important role in your professional journey.
Another useful networking tip is to ask to interview or shadow someone in a role you would like to be in. This is a great opportunity to gain perspective into the daily tasks of that role and what the process to get there is like. You can also use your connections to learn about job opportunities, internships, or clinical ladder programs available. Particularly when applying for career programs that may be competitive, knowing and having a relationship with the right person can give you the advantage needed to succeed. Networking also helps build interpersonal skills, which is beneficial for any role in healthcare.
5. Stay Confident and Determined
The process of advancing a healthcare career can sometimes be arduous. Even when you feel less than confident in your abilities or exhausted by the demands of schooling or work, remind yourself that the journey is not always easy, but will definitely be worth it. Move forward with confidence in your abilities and remember that the challenges along the way will help shape the type of professional you will eventually become.
Stay organized and practice good study habits, rely on your support network when needed (including friends, family members, and professional mentors), remember to keep yourself healthy both physically and mentally, and break your journey up into small, measurable goals so you do not feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of what you are trying to achieve. Keep your eye on your end goal to remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place and don’t forget that your successes may be inspiring someone else along the way.