Guidelines For Planning Your Nursing Career 

Nursing Career

There are many reasons to choose to become a nurse. First, you might want to do it because it’s one of the best ways to help people – your patients will need a caring, compassionate, kind person to be with them when they are worried, scared, or just need some comfort. Plus, you can give them the medication they need or dress their wounds and ensure they recover as well as possible. Other reasons to become a nurse include finding a good work-life balance, having great job satisfaction, having excellent job stability, and having personal fulfillment in knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. 

One thing you can also rely on when you qualify as a nurse is that you can advance your career in many different ways with plenty of hard work and further learning. From an RN, which is where you will start, you might wish to move all the way up to running a hospital as a nurse leader, for example. Or you can move into a specialist area, such as the ER, OR, intensive care, or perhaps working with children. No matter what you want to do, you’ll find an option for you when you are a nurse. 

The one issue with this is that because there is so much choice regarding what you can do in a nursing career, it can feel somewhat overwhelming. When you reach a certain stage of your career, what should you do next? Rather than just one or two options, a good nurse will be faced with many – dozens, perhaps. It’s no wonder that this decision can feel so hard – so much so that you’ll want to get it right the first time. 

This is why planning your nursing career is the best thing you can do. If you plan, you’ll find that decisions are much easier to make because you’ll know which direction to go in. With that in mind, read on for some helpful guidelines when it comes to planning your nursing career to ensure you make the most of the opportunities you have and that you are happy and satisfied in your work – this is so important, as it means your mental and physical health, as well as the health of your professional relationships, will stay on the more positive side.

Why Nursing Offers Such A Great Career Path

As mentioned, it’s crucial to consider how to plan out your ideal nursing career to ensure that you can make the most of your working life (and your home life, too – the right job makes a huge difference in how happy you are in general). Still, it’s also worthwhile to look into why nursing offers so many opportunities. It could be that understanding this will help you see where your own career might go, which can then assist you in narrowing down your options right from the start. 

The biggest reason nursing has so many opportunities is that people get sick in many ways. Although that is not a positive thing, it does mean that there are many chances for people to become nurses in all kinds of fields. Nurses are needed to treat people from birth until death, whether that comes from old age, an illness, or an accident. 

When nursing first became a profession, a nurse would help everyone, regardless of their condition, age, or anything else. Today things are different. Today, people understand that the human body is very complex, and because of this, it’s important to have medical professionals who specialize in various elements. That could mean specializing in an age bracket, a specific condition, or even a particular area of the body. 

By having less general nursing (although this is still very important and certainly worthwhile) and more specialized nursing, the idea is that people can receive more specific treatment for their problems and potentially recover more quickly. This has meant that dozens of new opportunities are opening up for nurses that simply weren’t there before – even just a few years ago. If you are ambitious and are interested in a particular branch of nursing that you want to move into, having a goal to get there will help you. 

Planning Your Nursing Career Path

The decision about what kind of nurse you want to be should not be a quick one. Although you probably won’t want to spend many months or even years deciding on the best course of action for you to take, you also don’t want to spend a few minutes on the decision or simply pick a career option at random. 

If you do this, you might find that you make a mistake and it’s not what you wanted, and that would mean either having to work in a career you don’t enjoy (which can adversely affect your mental health) or having to start all over again. Although this latter idea is the better option for some people, it’s still time-consuming and costly. It’s far better to spend more time considering your options than running the risk of starting all over again. 

Be An RN First

The first thing to do when it comes to planning your career path is to remember that there is no rush. Rushing, as noted above, will often lead to bad choices and wasted time (not to mention money). Instead, if you take your time over this big decision, you’ll stand a much better chance of making the right choice and then feeling happier about your decision. 

Once you have graduated as an RN with your initial nursing degree, take some time to enjoy that portion of your career. Then, if you want to move on, you’ll know that being an RN is not forever, but you’ll also see that it’s a crucial part of your learning experience. 

By working as an RN – which is the first step for every nurse –, you will learn a lot about how to take care of patients, work well with others, be more organized, communicate with many different people, and more. This means you’ll be much better placed to move forward in your career because you’ll have the necessary skills that many employers will be looking for. 

Therefore, as strange as it may seem, the first step in planning your nursing career is not to plan at all but instead to just work. Work hard and learn as much as possible before you consider moving forward. This will benefit you greatly as it will ensure you have the important nursing skills you need and a lot of experience to back them up. On top of that, while you are working, you’ll start to get an idea about which type of patients you like to work with the most, what areas of the hospital interest you, and perhaps what conditions you feel you are most able to help with. 

Even without realizing what’s happening, you’ll start to understand more about yourself as a person and as a nurse, making any additional steps you want to take much easier because you’ll be more confident in your decisions – thanks to the experience and knowledge you’ve gained in the workplace.

Explore Different Nursing Paths

As explained, there are dozens of different types of nurses. You can stay as an RN until the time comes to retire if you want to, and that’s perfectly fine – RNs are always needed, and it is a very worthwhile position. However, moving forward could be your goal, in which case nursing allows for that as well. 

If you want to advance your career, spend some time exploring the different nursing career paths you might take. Each will be different, although with similar expectations and requirements, and it’s vital to know what these are. Once you do, you’ll see what you need to do and work towards in order to take the next step. 

Identify Possible Career Options 

Once you have considered the type of nurse you would like to be in the future, you need to ensure that your choice will make you happy and help you achieve your goals. Something can seem very exciting and as though it would make an ideal career, for example, but it might not stand up anymore when you hold it up to your ultimate dreams. This is why it’s important to know what you want, not just out of your career but out of your life. 

When all of this has been done (and you can see now why it is something you need to spend time on), you can finally start looking at the options available. You will need to consider the necessary qualifications, the experience required, and the lifestyle you might need to lead if you change your career path, for instance. 

Perhaps you love the idea of becoming a travel nurse. But, if that’s the case, how would that affect your home life? Maybe you want to work in an ER, but would that mean learning new skills and different ways to work compared to working in a quieter area of the hospital? List out the pros and cons of each option. Looking at this list, you should get a better idea of how each potential job would make a difference in your and other people’s lives. 

What Qualifications Do You Need? 

One of the most important elements of planning for your nursing career is, once you know what you want to do and have weighed up all the pros and cons for each option, to understand what additional qualifications you might need to get where you want to go. 

Although there will be some positions that don’t ask for more learning (at least in a formal sense), many – the majority, in fact – do. If you want to be a certain type of nurse, take on a leadership role, or simply stand a better chance of getting the job you are looking for (or the promotion you want), gaining more qualifications is crucial. It will give you the knowledge you need, the proof that you have that knowledge, and it will show anyone you might apply to work for that you are serious about what you intend to do. 

In the past, there would have been one option for gaining more qualifications; you would have had to return to a physical school and learn in a certain place. This might have disrupted your career, but that would have been something you could understand; it’s a small, short-term sacrifice for a better future. However, attending college could also cause big changes in your home life, which might be harder to deal with. It could even have been so difficult and disruptive that many people who would have benefitted from another nursing qualification decided against trying for it. 

Today, however, times have changed; there are several ways to study for a qualification in nursing that won’t detract from your personal life. In some cases, they won’t affect your work either. Online learning is a good example. In some cases, you can arrange your learning around your other commitments, ensuring that you can move forward in the way you want to but also not miss out on important parts of your life. Of course, some programs require you to study full-time, but these are something to keep in mind and could open future doors to new skills and professional progression.

Whether it’s part-time or full-time, an online study has become more popular than ever and is highly regarded in the professional world – even in nursing. You can take bachelor’s degrees in nursing online these days and post-graduate programs to help you advance your skills and career as a nurse. The online AGACNP post-master’s certificate is an example of this – for which you’ll need an MSN in order to apply. 

For example, this kind of program could be on the agenda for a future date – it’s good to know it exists and is something to work toward. In the meantime, you can obtain other qualifications that will lead you to this one. In other words, don’t just look at the next step but plan as much as possible.

Seek Advice 

Choosing the right career path when you are a nurse is much more complicated now than ever before. There are many choices within those choices, and it can be hard to know what will make you happy. If you are feeling confused and even overwhelmed by the options ahead of you, it’s best to speak to someone who can help you. 

The person you speak with could be a family member or friend, but it could also be a colleague, a mentor, or a careers advisor at work or your place of study if you’re currently a student (or an aspiring student applying to colleges). It’s good to talk to someone and get a different perspective to help you move forward, even if you’re only at the planning stage. 

Written by Sajjad Ahmad

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