Nursing is an excellent career choice, but as with every career, the next step is always going to be important. You may absolutely love your current situation, but things change. Your favorite co-workers may move on, a personal change might impact your values and needs, your boss may change, there might be another pandemic on the horizon, and so on.
It is impossible not to change, which is why everyone, even nurses, needs to have their eyes on the horizon and need to know what next steps are available to them. You don’t need to take that next step just yet but having options and being aware can immediately help prepare you for when those changes inevitably come your way.
This applies to professionals at all levels. For example, you may already be an APRN and still have places you can take your careers, such as education, policy-making, or even leadership. Knowing your options, what it will take to get there, and preparing to take that step means you will be able to seamlessly transition at the right time for you.
Opportunities come your way and need to be snatched up quickly, and to act fast, you need to be ready. Prepare yourself and get ready to take your nursing career to the next level with these top tips and this expert guide:
Understand Your Needs and Mental Health
The pandemic has resulted in many leaving their nursing careers, breaking down, and being pushed to their limit. There is a reason why lockdowns were so important, and more than the high death rate, the issue continues to be the overwhelming of medical centers. Being careful of your mental health and taking steps towards finding an environment that helps support your mental and emotional wellbeing is paramount. Some of us are not a good fit for high-impact, highly demanding careers.
The good news is that there are so many roles and options out there for nurses. Thinking outside of the box can help you find the perfect place that helps you feel healthy and that you enjoy doing.
For example, you may not enjoy patient-facing job roles. Just because you are a nurse does not mean that you have to be great with people or that you have no other options. You can work in research or as a nurse leader, where instead of treating patients directly, you work to improve their quality of care across the hospital.
This nurse leadership role can be acquired in several ways, with one of the best options being the DNP route. This route will help you become a Doctor of Nursing Practice. You can use this degree to improve your salary range, can use it to help you apply for and get nurse leadership positions, and so on.
Understanding what you need and where you work best is one of the best-case scenarios, and we need more nurses to invest in that introspection. Someone who is healthy and who is at least passionate about their job will do infinitely better work than someone who struggles to get through the day, again and again.
Explore Your Interests as a Nurse
To successfully take your nursing career to the next level, you are going to want to explore your interests. This can be done by volunteering, reading, talking, and researching. You don’t need to worry too much about specifics just yet, as you can narrow down your focus as time goes on.
Something else to keep in mind is the shifting landscape of healthcare as a whole. Telehealth has become more widely adopted in recent years, and healthcare is aiming to decentralize to better spread resources around the country. With more of the population considering moving to rural areas, thanks to the power of remote work, decentralization, and telehealth will continue to be big factors changing healthcare, and as a result, nursing job opportunities.
Great Advanced Job Roles for Nurses
Looking for inspiration on where you can take your nursing career? Aside from finding the right working environment for you, there are many great roles to advance your career into.
Working as an APRN
APRNs are the highest level of nursing, though working as an APRN is not the furthest you can take your nursing career. For most, however, working as an APRN for at least a brief period is going to help improve your confidence, knowledge, and expertise.
Four Main Types
There are four main types of APRNs, with the most popular being the nurse practitioner. You can also become a clinical nurse specialist, a nurse-midwife, or a nurse anesthetist. Within these types, particularly NPs and CNSs, there are many more specialties. If you are currently an RN, then progressing through an MSN and becoming certified as an APRN is the best move that you can make for your career.
Choosing Your Specialty
It can feel daunting to choose your specialty, which is why it is okay to take time to explore different areas of medicine and to even try to get a new job within the department or clinic that focuses on what you think might be a good specialty to train for. You can work within the oncology department if you are considering becoming an APRN in oncology. The same applies to working in a family health clinic if you want to become a family nurse practitioner.
By getting placed as an RN within these spaces, you can understand first-hand if the area of medicine is of interest to you, as well as what the average day looks like for the APRNs who work there.
Changing Specialties Later On
You can always change or advance your specialty later on. For example, if you currently work as an acute care NP and want to move into family care or pediatrics, you can. Before you make that switch, however, you will need to earn a post-graduate certificate.
If you want to become at the top of the field, however, then you will want to advance your specialization further with a doctorate. Though technically completing a doctorate degree will make you a “Dr.” for the sake of clarification, you will need to use either “Doctorate of Nursing” or a “Nurse Doctorate”.
Work in Nurse Leadership
Working in nurse leadership is an excellent way to advance your career, as it puts more responsibility and helps you make an even bigger impact than you had beforehand. Nurses need great leadership; they need someone to improve their own quality of life and to also advocate for better patient care. If this sounds like it could be you, then earning a DNP or a CNL might be your next step.
Work in Education
One of the biggest hiccups to reducing the nursing shortage is the shortage of nurse educators. Only so many spots are available per year to train new nurses, and that is causing a delay. A great way to help nursing and healthcare overall, while simultaneously taking a step away from the demands of nursing, is to become a nurse educator.
Get Out of Nursing and Into Policy
Work in policy-making, and you can help change healthcare as a whole for the better. You can work as a researcher, a nursing advocate, or can even go into politics with a nursing background and a platform around improving the quality of care. There are so many ways that you can directly influence the quality of healthcare throughout your state or even throughout the country, but you will need to be prepared to take on another highly demanding career to see results.
How to Advance Your Nursing Career
Nursing is one of the few industries that place very clear boundaries and requirements for progression. To open up your options, you are going to need an MSN, at minimum, with an additional doctorate, Ph.D, or EdD under your belt, depending on where and what you want to do with your career.
To help you succeed, these tips will help you advance your career into that dream role:
Choose the Right Degree
Nursing degrees have come a long way and, except for any residency requirements, are now offered entirely online. This means you can continue to work, then study and progress through your degree seamlessly. Ensure that the degree you choose is accredited and offers high levels of support so that you can thrive at work and in your education.
Build Up Your Network
Finally, stay in touch with those you meet and build up your network by being active online. You never know when an online connection can turn into a job opportunity, particularly if you are looking to advance your career out of healthcare. You could work in entertainment or on movies and tv shows as a nurse, but when it comes to these more unique roles, the competition will be fierce, and who you know will matter.
Make it a habit to follow those you meet at conferences and your degree peers. Stay in touch with your faculty and everyone you work with. These people can become the secret to making the next step of your career happen.
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