Professional development is one of the most important items in your nurses’ toolkit. Learning new skills, finding out about new technology and how to use it, and discovering new evidence-based practices will make you a better nurse.
But after a year that has wreaked havoc across the world, do you really need to think about professional development during a pandemic?
Simply put, yes. But depending on your role and your current workload, you can adapt to take realistic steps.
Professional development keeps you at the top of your game. As lifelong learners, nurses are committed to continually improving their skills because their patients depend on it. There’s no way to be the best nurse possible if your thinking remains the same as it did when you first started a nursing practice. But if you’re overwhelmed and your workload just isn’t letting up, your professional development goals might look different from another nurse.
What does professional development look like now?
1. Assess the Past Year
If you’re too tapped to even consider adding professional development to your life, think ahead. The past year has been one long lesson in trial by fire and you have learned a lot, even if you don’t have a certificate for it. Think about what you did that might have sparked a curiosity to learn more. What areas do you think you did well in? What areas could use some additional skills? Did you assume roles or responsibilities you liked or some that didn’t fit so well? All of these indicators can help you think about professional development in the future.
2. Make a List
Your last year probably found you using skills you never thought you’d use on a regular basis. Maybe you assumed a leadership role because you had to or you found the leadership role you were already in morphing into something much different. Leading a unit through a pandemic is nothing like what you did before. What can you do in the next year to build on the skills you sharpened through the pandemic?
3. Take Action
Sometimes getting started is the hardest step. At some point, life will return to some semblance of normal, and you’ll want your career to be in good shape to move forward when that happens. Taking action can be a large or small undertaking, but doing something is the goal. When you think about your actionable goal, be realistic for the current time. If you are able to apply for a degree program or to take a certification, now is the time to get that plan in action. If you can’t commit to something big, remember that small actions are important.
- Join a professional organization and attend one event.
- Network with a nurse you admire.
- Read a book or subscribe to a journal in your specialty to sharpen your expertise.
- Take an online course in an area that can build up essential skills including communication, conflict resolution, targeted technology, time management, or goal setting.
- Share your knowledge by teaching a class in your organization or in your community. You’ll benefit from the public speaking practice and organization skill building, and your audience will benefit from your advanced understanding of the subject matter.
- Attend a virtual conference.
Professional development is an ongoing task, and when the world of nursing is in such change, it’s even more important. But many nurses are tired and stressed, so professional development is going to look a little different than it might have a year ago. Just keep moving forward and learning, but do it with an intention that will bring your career to a better place.
Whether you’re a brand-new nursing student or a nursing graduate student earning an advanced degree, working with faculty members will help you get as much as possible out of your higher ed years. Sometimes connecting with and learning from faculty members is easier said than done, but forming bonds with your professors can help you in many ways.
If you’re wondering how to best approach faculty members you admire, who are in your specialty, or who teach an especially difficult course, there are a few things to remember.
Take the Initiative
Don’t be afraid to talk to them. As a nursing student, you know your professors are busy and some of them can even be intimidating. But they decided on a career that includes teaching because they want to help others succeed in nursing. Approach them when they are available—good times during scheduled office hours. Ask if they have time to chat or if setting aside more time would fit their schedule. Bring your questions about the work in class or even ideas for relevant and independent projects outside the course requirements.
Know What They Can and Can’t Do
If you’re excited to find a faculty member whose research or career trajectory mirrors your own interests, know they will probably be an excellent resource for you. They might be able to help guide you on important projects, your research direction, or the soft skills (like how to make a great presentation or communicate effectively with your team) that career nurses need to excel. They might be able to introduce you to other nursing professionals across the globe who you can learn from as well. Don’t expect them to find a job for you, but they might be able to steer you in a direction where you’ll find opportunities like grant information or job openings.
Meet Their Standards
Professors want to work with driven and dedicated students. They don’t expect you to perform miracles, but your efforts will have more impact if you ask questions when you don’t understand something, show up on time, and follow up on outstanding tasks. If you’re working on a team, pull your weight and contribute to make the group’s work better. If you’re working independently, produce work that shows initiative and a real interest in the subject and turn it in on time. Professors expect high-quality work from nursing students, so check everything twice.
Faculty members are in their roles so they can teach students, and they like to hear when a student appreciates their efforts. If a professor gives you an opportunity to present at a conference, participate in a paper, or follow a specific interest in a lab that’s not exactly part of the syllabus, be sure to thank them. A note or email is appreciated or you can just tell them how their encouragement made a difference and tell them “thank you for helping me.”
Keep in Touch
One of the special talents of many professors is their ability to remember students long after they have graduated. Often, you’ll find a moment in your career that reflects directly on a course you took and a professor who influenced you. Keeping in touch with professors who were particularly encouraging or knowledgeable is a great way to stay connected to people who changed your life and to build your network. You may even be able to offer something in return over the course of your own career.
Faculty members want to help their students. With some guidelines in place, approaching them can make all the difference in your academic work and even your career.
At its core, nursing is an inherently humanitarian career path: The job can’t be done without compassion and a willingness to advocate for patients, by any means necessary. As a nursing professional, you’re also likely to be unwittingly thrust into the political arena, treating both injured protesters and law enforcement officials following a violent clash.
And in recent years, U.S. nurses have treated their fair share of protestors, notably those who were standing up against police brutality and the killing of unarmed young Black people, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Throughout 2020, protesters in Portland, Oregon and elsewhere reported various forms of retaliation and crowd control used by police that run the gamut from flash grenades and rubber bullets to teargas.
Nursing Professionals on the Front Lines of Social Justice
As such, for modern nursing professionals, the lines between individual health care and politics often collide. Along with treating injured protestors at medical facilities and hospitals, many nursing professionals are volunteering their time on the front lines. In many cases, nurses at protests simply show their support to the cause.
But, if a nonviolent protest escalates into a dangerous situation, having a nursing professional on the scene is vital. You may be able to provide emergency care, of course, but even more importantly, nurses on the front lines of protests have a unique insight into police brutality. This sort of information is an invaluable tool for fueling the conversation about systemic racism in the health care industry as well as everyday life.
So, once you’re aware of the current landscape of protests and the tactics used by police, however, what will your next steps be? There are various ways that you can get involved and take a stand against police violence, on both a professional and social level. Here’s what you need to know about the consequences of police violence and how you can help protesters, no matter if you’re on the front lines or working in the ER.
Racism, Police Brutality, and Public Health
The COVID-19 pandemic had already altered daily life around the world long before May 25, 2020. That night, George Floyd lost his life in the hands of law enforcement officials, and U.S. citizens flooded city streets in response. These widespread protests didn’t dissipate overnight — in fact, they only grew larger, and the violence that escalated in several cities left health care workers in a dire situation.
Already under the threat of the pandemic, nurses from all walks of life suddenly found themselves working to balance public health considerations with the reality of police violence. As a patient advocate in these politically charged times, you should thus be aware of the unique needs of your patients. Victims of police violence and brutality, for example, may fear for their safety.
Discretion is a key factor in situations involving institutional racism and police brutality. Further, the provider-patient confidentiality agreement is especially vital if a protestor in your care wishes to pursue legal action against a law enforcement official or organization.
Patient Privacy in the Modern Health Care Landscape
Privacy is an important consideration in 2021, as so much of our everyday lives can be easily found on the internet. Protesters further put themselves on display, and the plethora of camera phones, as well as professional cameras wielded by the media, make anonymity nearly impossible. If you participate in a protest, whether as a curious observer, an active participant, or in a care-related capacity, it should be expected that your image will be captured on camera.
For example, even masks and costumes couldn’t hide the identities of countless right-wing protestors who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Thanks to the internet and social media, identifying the Capitol rioters was a simple endeavor. While this sort of facial recognition may represent a slippery slope scenario, at least where personal privacy is concerned, the tech proved crucial to holding the rioters responsible.
In the age of telehealth, patients should be afforded more privacy considerations than the protesters, yet various challenges exist when it comes to protecting patient information. To ensure that you’re properly adhering to patient privacy laws, as well as protecting vulnerable patients such as victims of police violence, you must take every possible precaution when collecting, accessing, and storing patient data. You may also want to stay up-to-date on relevant laws and HIPAA regulations, which can change without warning.
There’s No Place for Violence in a Caring Society
As long as police violence remains prevalent, the minority nurses of the future are likely to face unprecedented challenges while on the job. Whether you find yourself in a position of mentor or you’re working directly with patients injured during a protest, your voice is powerful. In the wake of a global pandemic and continued racial disparity, nurses may be inspired to stand up for their patients and actively address police violence, for the sake of both public health and social justice.
Most people are familiar with a board of trustees. These are the leaders who advise, guide, direct, and lead businesses large and small while keeping the organizations’ best professional, financial, and strategic goals in mind. Members of a board of trustees are a diverse group with broad expertise; these varied backgrounds allow the group to look at problems or issues through several different lenses.
As a professional nurse, having your own board of trustees is one way to help your personal and professional growth flourish. Your board doesn’t need to sit around in a conference room (or, today, on Zoom), your own group can be informal, and they can actually be a mutually supportive group who has each member’s best interests in mind.
Who will you invite into your board of trustees? Here are a few things to consider.
Those You Admire and Respect
Nurses who hold leadership roles and who perform their work duties in a way you want to emulate are excellent people to have in your corner. Asking for their advice and guidance or just watching how they approach their responsibilities is going to help your career.
Those Who Don’t Know the Industry
Your board of trustees shouldn’t include only those in the medical industry. Professionals in other industries—from banking to teaching to construction—are going to help you. They can offer perspectives of patient personalities and what might be percolating for the general public. They may offer insight into business practices that could help your own work flow be more efficient or could boost the morale of your unit. They can also give you tips on salary negotiation or interviewing.
Those Who Help with Nitty Gritty
Your alma mater can help you with a career search or with a resume review. The neighbor or cousin who can watch your kids while you finish up a grant proposal is worth more than gold. Your colleague who motivates you to exercise or take a break when you‘ve hit a wall is going to watch out for you. These people belong on your board and you belong on theirs. These are all great opportunities for reciprocal relationships—you can help them as much as they help you.
Those You Network With
Colleagues who are active in nursing associations can help you network to find a new professional opportunity. These are the people who can help you pinpoint excellent presentation topics or give you insider information on how to navigate a particular conference. They can guide you to elevate your visibility in the industry.
Those Who Know You Best
An opportunity might look so-so on paper, but your best friend might be the one to point out how it matches your passions and gives you a launching pad. Or a job offer might be weighed by your sister who asks if you’ll be able to move the 1,000 miles required to make it happen and then cheers you on when you figure out how to do exactly that. This is the crew who will tell it like it is and who always have your back.
Having a board of trustees—or really a board of trust—in your corner is a way to ensure you aren’t going it alone. People are often willing to help. It’s important to offer something in return and to understand you also bring value to the relationship.
If you’re hoping to ask for advice about a career switch from a nurse who is in that specialty, make an offer to take them out to lunch. If someone is watching your kids, offer to watch theirs or to pick up some groceries the next time you go to the store. There are many ways we can all support each other. Start building a circle of trusted people and see the impact it has on your well-being and your career.
Community-based hospice nursing is one of the many areas in which nurses can practice the art of caring towards others. It is somewhat of a non-traditional specialty, given that it takes place outside the walls of hospitals and facilities, but it is definitely rewarding. But becoming a successful community-based hospice nurse has its own challenges. It requires a certain set of skills for those who choose to pursue it.
1. The ability to work with little supervision.
Working in the community means spending most, if not the entire day, working alone. This means that nurses need to be able to hold themselves accountable in getting things done in a timely manner. There are no managers to watch what they are doing, but they are still expected to accomplish what they need to do for the day.
2. The ability to cope with solitude.
Humans are built to be social beings, and that applies to work settings. Workplaces can function as social settings, which can provide the interaction people need on a day-to-day basis. As a community-based hospice nurse, social interaction may be very limited, and those who wish to try it must learn other ways to meet this basic human need to connect with others. There are many ways to do this, including participating in meetings and gatherings at the office, connecting with other community-based nurses through various associations, and maintaining communication with colleagues who work in other places. Working alone does not need be a cause for social isolation.
3. Being a diligent communicator.
Community-based hospice nurses may spend most of their time alone, but much of what they do is actually in coordination with a team. Hospice nurses are part of an interdisciplinary team that includes, licensed practical/vocational nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, among others. In order to be effective, community-based hospice nurses must be able to communicate with these other disciplines when necessary to ensure proper delivery of care to patients and families.
4. Being culturally sensitive.
Cultural sensitivity is an important aspect of nursing practice and this applies to hospice nursing in the community. Hospice nurses must be keen to ask and know about any religious, cultural, or social practices that patients and families may have towards the end of life. Doing this helps ensure that patients die with the dignity they deserve.
5. Being emotionally strong.
Nurses, in general, deal with people at their most difficult times. This is especially true for hospice nurses. Visiting patients in their homes requires great emotional resiliency. Hospice nurses may find themselves dealing with patients who are in distress or are living their last days or hours. In some cases, hospice nurses may be the only person besides family members present when a patient dies at home. Nurses must not only come to terms with their feelings about mortality, but also being able to provide comfort to families who have just lost a dear loved one.
Being a community-based hospice nurse is fulfilling in many ways, and those who possess the right skills may find this to be viable long-term career.
Are you looking to overhaul your budget, but don’t have lots of wiggle room for savings? Even if your employment is solid right now, it doesn’t mean you’re not nervous about your cash flow. Your costs might have gone up or your hours might have been reduced (or both). Or maybe you’re just trying to build a savings safety net or to fortify one you had to dip into.
Whatever the reason, there are some easy tweaks you can make in your daily spending habits to boost your bank accounts without too much effort. These steps are easy and can add up to significant cash savings with little change to your daily life.
1. Take a Look at Your Fees
If you own a home, now is an excellent time to refinance. Rates are low and you can save a bundle of cash over the course of your loan period. You might be able to shave years off your mortgage—who can’t use that kind of extra money? And take a look at your car insurance or home insurance. Do some comparison shopping and see if you can find better rates for the same coverage. Don’t forget to check if your employer has any kind of discount program for insurance coverage.
2. Ditch the Extras
Like a leaky faucet, small cash drains can lead to financial problems. Where are the possible leaks in your budget plan? The monthly charge for Spotify. The magazine subscription that renews automatically. The phone plan that is out of step with what you need. The bank fee every month. The three streaming subscriptions you haven’t had time to watch lately. The gym membership that you aren’t using. The monthly fee for a service plan you meant to cancel last year. All those small leaks can add up to a big cash drain. Check your monthly expenses for at least one or two things you can cancel.
3. Find Your Perks
You’ve heard your friend talk about her credit card extras. How’s your credit card matching up? You don’t need (and really shouldn’t hang onto) a handful of credit cards, but you should make sure the ones you have are working for you. Perks like extra mileage, money back, or discounts on things you use frequently come with certain credit cards. If your credit is good and your credit card isn’t offering you some real benefits (and a low interest rate), ask for them to give you an upgrade or look for a new card.
4. Sell Your Stuff
Do you have clothes you don’t wear or lamps just taking up space in your closet? Why not sell them and make some cash? Online resale retailers like Poshmark or your local consignment shop are a boon to people who want to sell their gently used (but in good shape) clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes, and sometimes even household items. You’ll earn a percentage of the sale price and will probably never miss what you got rid of. And springtime inspires lots of people to clean out and have a big yard sale. Join forces with people in your neighborhood and make some extra money for things you no longer want.
Look for the leaks in your daily spending and you might be able to save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.