4 Tips for Planning a Return to School

4 Tips for Planning a Return to School

If the coming fall season makes you think about someday returning to school or even getting a new certification, then it’s time to start planning how you can turn your thoughts into actions. There’s a lot to consider as you compare programs and courses that will boost your knowledge, move your career forward, and appeal to your interests.

Evaluate the best programs

Before you send in an application, be sure the school meets high educational standards. “Nurses should definitely look for an accredited program, either by the CCNE or ACEN (NLN), which ensures the quality and integrity of the program,” says Ayanna Lopez, Director of Academic Advising for Graduate Student Services at the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Nursing.

Find that work/life balance

Going to school takes a lot of time and is considered a financial investment in your future, so assess the resources and any available benefits you have to devote and plan accordingly. “I would recommend they find a program that aligns with their career goals and meets their personal needs,” says Lopez. “Oftentimes, graduate students are still working in their nursing careers and balancing a family. A program with full- or part-time options as well as online would provide flexibility and convenience.”  In addition, online programs may also be more affordable. For example, UCF’s online programs offer reduced tuition through fee waivers for some campus-based amenities.

Map your route

No matter what your level of education, you’ll find several options to reach your goal in your return to school. In some accelerated degree programs, RNs can pursue a graduate degree without a BSN. The same goes for some nurses who want to pursue a doctorate degree–there are accelerated programs that help them combine some MSN and DNP or PhD requirements so it takes less time to complete the degree. Even some prerequisite courses that nurses will need to complete for a degree program can be flexible. Those courses can often be taken before or during the course of studies. All those details will help you plan how long different programs will take and how much each will cost.

Know your expectations

Most nurses with advanced degrees will encourage others to strive for a higher level of education, but they also advise giving it careful thought. Nurses should do the work to understand their real motivation for wanting that additional degree. Is it for a promotion opportunity or to meet a personal goal? Are they looking for a salary increase and how would they view their efforts without a salary bump? “I would advise applicants to review the policies within their organization first to determine the best path for advancement,” says Lopez, “as some employers have policies about degrees required for promotion and salary increases.”

There’s a lot of information to consider when thinking of returning to school. With careful thought and planning, you can find the right program for you.

Going Back to School for RN to BSN? Key Points to Consider

Going Back to School for RN to BSN? Key Points to Consider

With the national push for more BSN prepared RN’s, many nurses are considering completing a RN to BSN program. For the experienced RN these programs can be pretty straight forward, completed online or on campus and in as little as 12-18 months.

Completing a BSN program is major decision that needs careful planning.

Before enrolling in a program there are some factors to take into consideration:

  1. Make sure the school is regionally and nationally accredited by proper authorities in your state. The last thing you want to do is complete a degree and not have it recognized by your state’s nursing board. Accreditation is also important if you want to continue your education towards a master’s or doctoral degree in the future.
  2. Take a close look at the course requirements to see if you are ready for the commitment and rigors of being a student again.
  3. Look at the course formats and make sure they suit your learning style. Courses can be delivered in a variety of ways: online, face-to-face, or hybrid. Inquire about day, evening and weekend classes that would work with your schedule. Whatever you choose, remember that going back to school will affect your lifestyle.
  4. Last, but not least, inquire about the costs of the program and incorporate school expenses; tuition, books, supplies, ect into your budget. 

In addition to working as a FNP, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, available on Amazon. Visit her ReNursing blog at www.renursing.com for more ideas on how to reinvent your career

What Recruiters Want: How a BSN Can Help You Land a Job

What Recruiters Want: How a BSN Can Help You Land a Job

With the increasing demand for more highly educated nurses and many hiring requirements now mandating a BSN, the nursing job market is in the midst of a massive shift. 

The BSN figures prominently in the nursing field, especially since the Institute of Medicine’s report The Future of Nursing called for 80% of nurses to have a BSN by 2020. More nurses are attaining the degree, but many of them wonder just what advantages the BSN can bring.

According to recruiters, a BSN automatically raises both your professionalism and your marketability. Recruiters, who act as a link between job seekers and the organizations looking for staff, also say a BSN is only one piece of the professional package needed to land your first job out of school.

“More and more, a BSN is becoming the minimum requirement, as opposed to the preferred idealistic requirement,” says Amanda Bleakney, senior managing director of health services operations with The Execu|Search Group. In fact, many top-tier hospitals won’t hire a nurse without a BSN. “Nurses who aren’t getting a BSN are ruling themselves out of job opportunities,” she says.

Recruiters can help new grads find a job, but as a job seeker, you still have work to do. Recruiters want a BSN backed up by experience, but they also want to hear about any special skills you might have. They are trying to keep their clients happy and send them candidates they need, so the more precise and polished you are, the better the fit will be.

“Anything we can use as a selling point to the client helps,” says Bleakney. “When it comes to the candidate side, we always have a selling point.” So if you’re looking for a job in the Bronx and you speak Spanish, you might be more valuable than someone who has a little more experience, but isn’t bilingual.

However, no matter how great your experience is, it means nothing if you don’t present yourself well. A recruiter can open the door for you, so it’s just as important to show them your best, most professional self.

“A recruiter is a gatekeeper,” says Terry Bennett, president of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment. “Recruiters are helping to screen candidates the managers will then interview. Where graduates can present their best selves is by helping to qualify what they will bring to an organization.”

Your resume is your first introduction, so use it to tell your story. “Tailor your resume,” Bleakney advises. Anything you want to highlight, such as your bilingual skills, your experience with specific populations, or your electronic medical record training, should be at the top.

“Bad or poorly formatted resumes will rule nurses out of a job,” says Bleakney. Even if a nurse hires a pro to craft her flawless resume, Bleakney says it shows that she is someone who cares about presentation and likely has strong administrative skills, too.

Recruiters want candidates whose preparation and professionalism will shine a light back on the recruitment firm. “We want to send the highest quality, top candidate as we can because that candidate stands out for us,” says Bleakney. Very often, an initial phone screen will be followed up by an in-person meeting to go over all the candidate’s qualifications and background checks.

If you have anything that could be interpreted as even slightly negative, be upfront with your recruiter, suggests Bleakney. “It’s always best to disclose something,” she says, or it can cost you a job instantly.

“Reputation is everything,” says Brenda Fischer, PhD, RN, MBA, CPHQ, FACHE, senior director of clinical education programs with AMN Healthcare, a workforce solutions firm, so watch your social media posts and appearances carefully. “Employers can be very selective,” says Fischer, and they will look at a candidate’s online information.

Recruiters want people who represent them well, and they use your first meeting to assess how you will present yourself to a client. Although it’s not an actual job interview, it is your first step in getting a job. Don’t be late, dress professionally, and bring your resume and any other requested documents, recommends Bleakney. “Half of getting a job is showing up and being prepared,” she says. “If someone cancels continuously or is a no-call and no-show, I know if they do that to me, they will do that to my clients.”

When you advance to an interview your recruiter sets up, do your research. “Know about the organization,” advises Bennett. “For the unit, what types of patients are there?” Make sure the organization knows why you want to be on that unit, with that manager, with that organization, and why you are the best person for the job, she says.

What Does a BSN Do for a Nurse’s Career?

“Students should realize what they are getting from a BSN that is special,” says Hayley Mark, PhD, MPH, RN, an associate professor and the director of the baccalaureate program at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. “The degree means they have the ability to think critically. They can evaluate evidence and apply it, and that skill is critical.”

Critical thinking means a nurse can assess the quality of care, says Mark. “It goes beyond the skills,” she says. “A BSN gives a system-wide perspective and helps nurses look beyond the one-on-one.” For instance, if there’s ever a medical error, a nurse can gather the reasons why it happened, can use that information to understand why it happened, and will then take that knowledge to implement changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

A BSN also opens doors for other prospects. “The future of nursing is with a BSN,” says Julia Taylor, a BSN grad who works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on an in-patient gastrointestinal surgical oncology unit. “You’re more of a well-rounded nurse and will have more opportunities down the road to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree.”

When you are interviewing, highlight not just your BSN but also the knowledge that comes with it. As with any education, a BSN gives you more in-depth nursing knowledge, but the specific training from a BSN also means you know how to look at the whole system and you have the skills to work in a leadership role across all systems, says Mark. “Generally, if a company is comparing a BSN nurse to a less educated nurse, they will hire [the one with] the BSN,” she says.

When a nurse looks at the industry systemically, issues such as cost effectiveness, patient centeredness, communication skills, awareness of the latest in patient safety, and familiarity with information technology are most pressing, says Fischer. That scope often mirrors an organization’s approach as well, so hiring nurses who think that way benefits the entire company.

How Does a BSN Translate to Real Work?

The BSN degree prepares students for the broad thinking required of future nurse leaders, but any hands-on experience a new grad has or can get makes recruiters take notice. Many organizations are looking for a couple years of experience, says Bleakney, but are willing to consider new grads who can demonstrate how their clinical—or even their volunteer work—prepared them best.

A practicum in a similar unit will increase your chances as you will gain similar skills, says Bennett. But even work outside of health care is helpful if you frame it right. Did you manage a restaurant? Then you have great customer service skills, says Bennett. Did you head up an Eagle Scout group? You also fine-tuned your leadership skills in the process.

As a minority nurse, you can also highlight your diversity skills. In most organizations, the ratio of cultural diversity with patients and providers is not representative of the population. If you are a minority nurse looking for a job, recruiters in certain locations want to see your resume because health care organizations are seeking a more diverse staff. “I would use that in crafting my resume and present it as a strength,” says Fischer.

Farzana Abed, a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, chose a BSN program for the breadth of the studies, but her own background offers employers a valuable perspective. “A BSN offers a more comprehensive program with the social, cultural, and political aspects of nursing,” she says. Combining her education with her life experience as an immigrant from Bangladesh who knows the challenges of language barriers, financial difficulties, and even racism makes her very aware of the challenges some patients face.

If your cultural or racial background gives you a better understanding of what minority patients might need or how they approach health care, your life experience combined with your BSN is going to be a sought-after skill. If you understand various cultural traditions surrounding health choices or if you are bilingual, let recruiters know those skills up front.

What Can You Do?

“Get any work experience on the unit and do the job well,” advises Mark. A shadowing experience also helps you boost your knowledge and get yourself noticed, she says. Bleakney suggests seeking out professional organizations that mirror your ideal job, whether that brings you to the Case Management Society of America or with the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York State, so you can meet leaders and connect with others in the field.

Networking, although it can be difficult for some, is a vital step when you are looking for a job. Get in touch with people through your alumni network or call a nurse manager or a nurse recruiter and impress them. “Every opportunity for volunteerism or professional development helps,” says Fischer. “Build every relationship through your clinical experience or through your school. Use every experience to form good relationships.”

Fischer acknowledges the special barriers of nurses who are going back to get a BSN after several years on the job. Unless they have actively worked at keeping their industry networks vibrant, it’s going to be harder for them to get out there and make the connections. They likely have pressing family obligations or more job responsibility than a new grad and less time for networking. “Make your own network,” Fischer advises, saying a group of colleagues can give specific career advice and family and friends can help out.

Where Are the Jobs?

The need for BSN nurses is great and will continue to rise as tougher standards are adapted. “Your educational background is first and then your work experience,” says Bennett. But for new BSN nurses, flexibility with location or setting plays a big role in your job search.

Talk with recruiters in different areas of the country to find out about job prospects and consider relocating, even if it’s only for a short while. For instance, suburban and rural areas are traditionally less competitive job markets than the big cities like New York or San Francisco, says Mark, so you might land a position that matches your interests, even if it’s not your first location choice. “Once you come in with experience, it makes you a totally different candidate,” says Mark.

Be open to different options, but even if you consider a placement as a temporary stop on your way to something else, don’t treat the job as a place marker, advises Bennett. Recruiters and employers want a candidate who is committed to the job, so give it your all to gain the experience you need.

If your field is especially competitive, consider all the places where you can gain skills first. “As nurses, we have to be proactive and strategic,” says Fischer.

A long-term care facility, a school, or a substance abuse facility can offer enough experience to make you that much more marketable, says Bleakney. “This is not the time to be particular,” she says. “This is the time to get the experience on your resume. Nurses who get the experience and then apply for their dream jobs are ahead of all the others who don’t have the experience.” Even working at a smaller community hospital might just give you enough knowledge of certain cultures or neighborhoods to make the difference in your next interview.

How Do You Find a Recruiter?

Finding a recruiter is not hard. Ask around to find out who colleagues have worked with or who your school recommends. You can also call the human resources department of your dream organization and ask which recruiting firm they work with or even the contact information for the recruiter, says Bennett. “If you really want to work somewhere, call that recruiter and ask what the process is,” she says. Do they have rolling starts or is it a month of interviews? Do they welcome calls after you have applied or are calls a no-no? Are new grads considered?

By asking relevant and specific questions, you can help shape your own process to maximize the recruiter’s time and resources as well as your own.

When you meet a recruiter, use the time wisely and be organized and open-minded. Your different skills can help recruiters recognize other areas that would offer a good fit for your skills. Even roles you may not have ever entertained might turn out to be an excellent prospect, says Fischer. Health coaches, care coordinators, and clinical documentation specialists are just a few roles emerging for nurses, says Fischer.

“Flexibility is key in health care,  especially as a new graduate,” says Bleakney.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts. 

How to be a Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise Nurse

How to be a Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise Nurse

Nursing can be physically taxing on the body, putting your health, and ultimately your finances in jeopardy. This can all be avoided by taking steps to being healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Every nurse needs to be healthy, wealthy, and wise to sustain a long, productive, and financially rewarding career.

How is this achieved?

  1. Taking care of yourself: This means losing the extra 20 lbs you’re carrying by making healthier food choices and exercising. Taking care of yourself also includes cutting out bad habits such as smoking and binge drinking on the weekends. Getting enough sleep is also important and everyone should strive for at least 7 hours per night. Nurses are also notoriously known to not drink enough water when working. Drink up and aim for at least half your weight in ounces daily. Water helps aid in weight loss, flushes out toxins, and keeps you from getting UTI’s during those long shifts.
  2. Saving for the future: Everyone, nurse or not, needs to have a savings account. There are many types of savings accounts, but for the sake of simplicity nurses need to have at least two. The first major account you need a retirement fund. Take full advantage of your employers company match if they have one…it’s free money! The second account you need is an emergency fund. Experts suggest having at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses in this account, but you can start with saving $1,000. If something unexpectedly comes up; ie: loss of employment, sickness, vehicle breakdown, ect, you will have the money and won’t be near as stressed due to finances if you didn’t have an emergency fund.
  3. Education: Education is the key to getting ahead in life and in your career. I’m not necessarily talking formal education here, although formal education has its place. The type of education I’m talking about is the life-long learning that a nurse must do to keep up with advances in healthcare. Be proactive with your education and seek out new learning experiences that will make you a valuable asset to the healthcare team. If you’re in an environment and someone is offering to train you on a new skill…do it! More education may lead to more money for you in the long run, helping you meet your wealthy goal more quickly.

 In addition to working as a FNP, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, available on Amazon. Visit her ReNursing blog at www.renursing.com for more ideas on how to reinvent your career.


Achieving Salary and Career Satisfaction

Achieving Salary and Career Satisfaction

Romeatrius Moss, RN, MSN, APHN-BC, DNP, doesn’t mince words when she advises other nurses about advancing their careers. “If you aren’t geared and ready and have everything in your toolbox, you are going to be left behind,” says Moss, the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurse Association. “Getting an advanced degree is extremely important. It pushes our profession forward.”

As more minority nurses advance, they are positioned to assume leadership roles and increase the diversity of nurse leaders, all of which reflects the patient population.

Moss’s outlook mirrors one that is hotly debated in nursing. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) garnered attention with its 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which calls for a highly educated nursing workforce to keep pace with the changing demands of both the health care environment and the patients who are served. An 80% goal of nurses with BSN degrees and a doubling of nurses with doctorates are imperative for the nursing community, the report stated.

“It’s good for the professions, but equally good and equally more important for the people who are coming into the health care system who deserve an educated workforce,” says Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). “The bottom line is about patient safety and providing health care that is high quality, efficient, and cost effective.”

In light of the study and others like it, nurses—who build careers on change—are debating the best and most reasonable ways to achieve career satisfaction and advancement. A nursing career includes different options, and one work day is never like another. To achieve maximum career success and optimize your salary potential, learn to embrace the changing atmosphere, says Janice Phillips, PhD, MS, RN, FAAN, director of government and regulatory affairs at Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools International, an authenticity credentialing service of foreign-educated nurses.

Advancing Your Education

The 2010 IOM report brings the issue of higher nursing degrees into sharp focus, causing some nurses to reevaluate their goals and some hospitals to implement new minimum requirements for employment. “Whether it is an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s-prepared nurse, the reality is that nursing requires lifelong learning,” says Kirschling.

Nurses have choices about how to advance, but a degree appeals to many organizations. “A minimum of a bachelor’s in nursing will open doors when you are competing for a job, and it shows a level of commitment,” says Marie-Elena Barry, a senior practice and policy analyst at the American Nurses Association. And even Kirschling says that an associate’s degree is often considered a point of entry into nursing now, not the final point.

Nurses are taking notice. Results from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) “2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses” showed that half of registered nurses hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and just over a third hold an associate’s. The rest have a diploma in nursing. Most nurses initially receive an associate’s degree, but about a third start out with a BSN. And for those who eventually earn higher degrees, the study showed approximately half of nurses with master’s degrees work in hospitals while the rest work in academia or in an ambulatory care setting.

According to a May 2012 occupational employment and wages report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an RN can expect to earn a mean annual wage of $67,930. Furthermore, the 2008 HRSA study revealed that RNs with graduate degrees earned an average of at least $20,000 more than RNs with other levels of education. Nurses who graduate with a degree also get into the workforce faster. Data from an August 2013 survey by the AACN revealed that nursing graduates of BSN or master’s programs are much more likely to have a job offer at graduation than graduates in other fields.

And while the higher salary is great, nurses are finding they need a bachelor’s to even get a job. The AACN study showed that 43.7% of hospitals and other health care settings require the degree and that 78.6% of employers prefer to see the BSN on a resume even if they don’t require it.

When you consider how to advance both your professional goals and your personal goals, keep in mind how each job will help you get to where you want to be. “Lots of nurses get a degree and go to work and don’t think about career development and learning how to grow your career,” says Barry. As a new nurse, you must ask yourself whether you are gaining valuable experience that you can put on a resume. And if you have been in nursing for years and are considering a move to academia, you should consider whether a teaching position will offer you needed benefits and retirement.

A Balancing Act

Working and going to school isn’t easy, and adding other obligations, like family, often makes the task overwhelming. But as the demand for nurses with a bachelor’s degree increases, schools are making it easier by offering accessible classes and accelerated degree programs. And Moss advises nurses not to be discouraged by the commitment. “This is a train,” she says. “Jump in when you can.”

In the meantime, anything you can do to make yourself more valuable to an organization will help increase your salary, and often a new degree raises your pay as well. “Provide evidence of how you made a difference,” advises Phillips.

Kirschling suggests talking with your employer about wanting to build on your skill set or your desire to continue your education. “Employers want to retain nurses and create career mobility within the organization,” she adds.

Keep Your Options Open

“People believe the continuing mantra that nurses need to work in traditional venues like hospitals and doctors’ offices,” says Carmen Kosicek, RN, MSN, author of Nurses, Jobs, and Money: A Guide to Advancing Your Nursing Career and Salary. But the pay for those positions doesn’t always match the financial outlay needed to practice there, she continues.

Instead, Kosicek advises nurses, especially those just graduating from nursing school, to look for other opportunities that offer both professional experience and gainful employment. “It’s not all about the money,” says Kosicek, “but they all have bills.”

According to Kosicek, many graduates are not hired for 4 to 18 months, and many of them are competing for med/surg jobs to gain broad experience. She suggests considering other options where you will use all your skills. A position as a school nurse, for example, where you handle hundreds of varied and often complex cases is an excellent way to use your skills and learn new ones. When you apply for a new grad residency program, you are already starting above the rest of the pack, she says.

If you are unsure what your next move should be, Kirschling recommends checking out  www.discovernursing.com to explore opportunities.

Approach Your Career as a Business

When you view your career as a business, you give yourself permission to look impersonally at your experience and your credentials. And you treat any potential job offer, salary increase, or career move with the same consideration as you would a major life change.

Just as you would negotiate the price of a house you are buying, you also must learn to negotiate salary offers, argues Kosicek. “It’s not always about your base pay of dollars,” she says. “You can negotiate other ways of compensation.” For example, you can ask for more vacation days, a higher match of your 401(k) plan, or tuition reimbursement for classes.

“No one is teaching that,” says Kosicek, but it is a valuable skill because it will get you closer to your goals. Negotiating shows you are confident and know your worth. “It is a totally different language,” she adds.

Act Like a Leader

Even if you haven’t reached your ultimate career goal, you can act like you have. “You can’t do a BSN [program] and expect to be a manager,” says Barry. “There are lots of little steps.”

Be a leader in your nursing community and make your presence known. One way to help increase your salary potential is to get involved within your state or with national organizations, says Barry. Don’t just become a member. Begin to make a difference by giving your input, showing up at events and meeting others, or volunteering on your state board of nursing, advises Barry. “It increases your ability to network and puts your face out there.”

Don’t overlook the importance of your workplace as well. Barry recommends getting involved with unit-based activities. Join a shared governance committee or work on a quality improvement project. Then give thoughtful input and work hard for the team.

Be More than Just Another Resume

Your resume might be your only shot at a job you want, so make it perfect. Just as nurses need negotiating skills to get ahead, they need a resume that is detailed and exact because it could mean the difference between the slush pile and a job offer.

“Nurses are not going to get in with traditional nursing resumes or traditional interviewing skills,” says Kosicek. “They have to show they are business wise.”

Barry agrees. Your experience, commitment, and education all combine into one package to an employer, but they have to be able to see it. You can do your part with a detailed resume that lists your education and any current classes along with your qualifications.

Become a recognizable name through your professional and appropriate exposure on social media and your networking efforts that bring you in touch with various health care professionals, suggests Barry.

Other Benefits

Of course, taking on a new degree doesn’t work for everyone. You have to consider the financial return on your investment, so you aren’t trading more education for insurmountable debt.

Chart the financial impact of furthering your education. If you want a degree but can’t imagine how you will pay for it, become a sleuth for scholarships or take an alternative path. If your company doesn’t reimburse for tuition, see if your professional organization membership gives you access to scholarships or grants. Can you take one class at a time to chip away at the degree?

A less tangible benefit of continuing your learning is confidence. “It gets you excited and keeps you informed and learning outside your unit,” says Barry. “Certification is important. It shows your commitment to your profession. It also shows your professional role modeling.” When you are learning and advancing by taking classes, even if it’s one at a time, you are demonstrating to your employer that you are actively engaged in your profession, she says.

Phillips knows firsthand the benefits of doing the unexpected. She recently left a faculty job at Rush University and the comforts of family and friends for her current job in a new city. Although the prospect gave her nervous butterflies, Phillips says the job fit perfectly with her career plan, filling a gap in policy experience that Phillips wanted to have. “Sometimes you just have to do it,” she says. “I didn’t want to sit around and not take some risk. Most people who have a well-rounded professional life have taken some risk.”

Have a Plan

Your career will stagnate if you don’t have a solid and ambitious plan to follow. Decide where you want to go and write a plan of action to get there. Put yourself in position to get where you want to be. Do you respect a nurse in a leadership position? Notice how she acts and ask about her volunteer work or about any organizations of which she is a member. “Part of the learning process is going through and collecting along the way,” says Barry. “As you are getting a degree, you are exposed to all those other areas.”

Even if you are not looking for a job, keep accurate records of your career successes, advises Phillips. “We don’t document our outcomes,” she says, so when the time comes to tell potential employees about them, it’s hard to remember the details. Keep a file—“call it a happy file,” suggests Phillips—where you record accurate outcomes and contributions from your job successes. Pay particular attention to relevant numbers and dates, so you can retrieve them when necessary. “Nurses have to be prepared,” she says. “You never know when an opportunity will present itself.”

Does an Advanced Degree Equal Respect?

Like it or not, an advanced degree is the first step toward a leadership position. “It’s very important for nurses to get a nursing degree,” says Barry. For nursing as a profession to advance with respect, getting a degree—particularly a BSN—will also bring more nurses into position to take over as future leaders. “Nursing education has a lot to do with where you go,” says Barry.

Starting with a BSN is the most important goal because it keeps you competitive, argues Barry. But as Kosicek points out, you will have to find your place in the market and actively seek out nursing roles that both pay your bills and satisfy your professional goals. Sometimes, a career move is your chance to advance professionally and personally and will lead to greater rewards, but you have to be willing to take the leap.

“The risk is that we have to be open and willing to leave our comfort zone to experience all nursing has to offer,” says Phillips. “And it’s scary. But I don’t believe anyone should be burned out. You need to find a new perspective.”

Just as each nurse is unique, so is each successful career path, says Phillips. “I’ve been a nurse for 37 years, and I am just as excited today as the day I graduated because I see the possibilities,” she says. “At the end of the day, how do you want to feel about what you want to do and what makes you proud of your profession?”

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.