As many new and experienced nurses all know, there are plenty of things to learn to be a competent and successful nurse. There are the basics, such as administering medication and filling out charts that every nurse should have a solid understanding of. Then there are the more subtle skills that the best nurses have such as bedside manner and an ability to make visitors feel at ease.

Of course, there are also plenty of things to learn that can also help you to advance your nursing career. Taking courses that allow you to specialize as a nurse are great examples of moving your career forward. Likewise, learning how to incorporate new technologies or focusing on integrating new systems is another way to strengthen your resume.

Though you may not immediately realize it, all of the advancements you are making and all of the knowledge you are gaining help more than just you. Taking forward strides in your nursing career impacts everyone you interact with positively. From your nursing coworkers and doctors that can depend upon you for more to your patients that can sense the breadth of your knowledge, advancing your career helps everyone else.

Improving Hard Skills

Perhaps the most straightforward way to move forward with your nursing career is to focus on improving your hard skills. These are steps like refining your clinical judgment during your first year as a nurse or working towards a specialized certification that allows you to take on greater roles and responsibilities. In general, hard skills are tangible educational advancements in your career.

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Hard skills can also include things that are necessarily directly tied to improving the health of patients. For instance, it could include something like learning how to use a new patient tracking software. Technologies are exploding in health care fields, and any efforts to learn the latest and greatest are sure to have a positive impact on your workflows.

The general idea of boosting hard skills is that you are becoming more confident and competent in your nursing abilities. You are learning new concepts and ideas that allow you to take on more responsibility and improve efficiency. These can be pretty obvious benefits to your career, to your supervisors, and to the patients you work with.

Boosting Soft Skills

Equally important to improving hard skills is giving your soft skills a boost as well. This can be a bit more complex than hard skills because soft skills are … well, soft. They aren’t as tangible or easily defined and the benefits, though incredibly valuable, can be more subtle and hard to tease out. However, these are the skills that could prove to make the most significant difference in patient lives.

Empathy is one of the most highly valued soft skills, especially in nursing. It is essentially the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and sympathize with their situation. For nurses, having well-developed empathy skills allows for better bedside treatment, the anticipation of needs, and a more caring demeanor when working with difficult or emotional patients and visitors.

Cultural competence is another soft skill that is important for nurses to have. Cultural competence is the idea of being able to help and treat patients from different backgrounds in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. It is having the wherewithal to recognize that there are differences in lived experiences between different ethnicities and anticipating how these differences may play out in a healthcare setting.

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Benefits for All

There are many, many benefits to be seen from advancing your nursing career. Some of them are going to seem small but will have significant lasting impacts. For instance, maybe you took a class on health insurance policy. You could find that suddenly, you’re in a better position to increase the health literacy of your patients by helping them understand what certain procedures mean and what their health insurance is likely to cover the cost of.

Or maybe improving your hard and soft skills has given you a new perspective on nursing as a whole. The knowledge could put you into a position to be an advocate for better nursing or bedside conditions in your hospital or state. You could find yourself empathizing with a greater number of concerns and becoming an advocate for nurses on a much larger scale.

Your efforts to advance your nursing career could earn you the respect of many of your colleagues and put you into a position to take on greater leadership roles. You may quickly realize that with your new skills you will qualify for a higher paying position. All of these advancements could greatly improve your reach as a nurse, allowing you to positively impact more lives.


There is a never-ending list of new things to learn as a nurse. Working towards building on your knowledge and expanding what you already know can be a great way to improve your career. It can also be a meaningful way to benefit your hospital, coworkers, patients, and community.

Sam Bowman
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