The end of a year always seems to spark personal reflection about what you’ve accomplished in your personal life. But taking some time for professional reflection now will help guide what you do next year in your nursing career.

Here are five points to consider when thinking about your nursing career and where it’s going.

1. Are you happy in your job?

This question is more complex than it seems. If you’re happy with your current job, that’s a good spot to be in. If you’re not happy with your job, the important part is deciding why. Is it your hours? Your salary? Your colleagues? Your supervisor? Your commute? Your specialty? There are so many factors that go into being happy in your current role. Pinpointing what’s making you unhappy will help you decide your next steps.

2.  What accomplishment are you most proud of this year?

If you’re initially stumped by this question, it means you probably haven’t been keeping track of when things went right this year. A nursing career is busy and often incredibly hectic, and it’s not easy to add one more thing to the professional task list. But keeping track of tasks you are proud of, things that made a difference, or an incident that made you remember why you became a nurse in the first place will bring your career into a clearer focus. Start with a notebook, a word doc, or just notes on your phone so you can remember how you’ve progressed this year. This kind of list is an excellent tool for your annual review as well.

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3. What areas do you want to improve?

Nurses are always learning. Advanced technology, new research, updated medication guidelines—the list of information you need to stay current is long. When you look back over the year, are there certain areas where you wish you had more knowledge? Are there certain tasks you want to get better at? Create a list and be specific.

4. How will you make those improvements come to life?

Now that you’ve identified where you want to improve in your nursing career, it’s time to plan how to do that. Do you need to take a class? Look into where it’s offered, when, and how much it costs. Is there a new certification that will help you? Find out how to accomplish that. Do you want to get a promotion? Ask your supervisor (or someone you trust), what qualifications you’ll need to move up in your organization. Do you want to shift gears and move into management or academia or a new specialty? There’s a way to make it happen—it starts will planning your steps.

5. Was there a time this year that made you grateful to be a professional nurse?

Hopefully you’ll be able to list several times when this happened. Over the years, this will be a nice reminder of the impact you’ve had as a nurse. This list will look different for every nurse because the profession is so varied. Whatever your list includes, know your work as a nurses changes lives and take pride in that.

There are lots of questions to think about when you’re taking an assessment of your professional year, but taking purposeful action to improve each and every year will bring you the results you want.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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