What’s Your Nursing Career Path?

What’s Your Nursing Career Path?

When student nurses graduate, they often have an idea of the units they really want to work on. Some know the ER is the place for them, others find working in a pediatric unit is going to be the best fit.

But if new nurses look ahead and consider their careers 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road, they might find their career path takes some sharp turns. If you talk to experienced nurses with many years of nursing under their belts, lots of them will say the reason their careers are fulfilling and can last so long in the same industry is because they have actually managed to change career tracks, not change careers, over the years. As you consider your future path, check into any education, work experience, or certification requirements so you can include those in your career plan.

How can you try something different but still remain a nurse?

Move Into Management

Becoming a nurse leader by taking on more supervisory roles and roles with more responsibility is one way to move into administration. Begin taking classes so you can earn an advanced degree in nursing and/or business so you have the educational background required for most of these positions. Continue to develop your executive skills and network. Generally, becoming a nurse manager is one of the first steps to taking on greater administration roles.

Try Out Academics

As a nurse, you already have a lot of experience that student nurses will find valuable. Moving into the academic arena will open up new paths for you that could lead to additional research, advocacy, publishing, or even expert opportunities. This is an especially good option for nurses who have advanced degrees as many colleges and universities require at least a master’s degree to teach.

Advance Policy

When you work as a nurse, you have first-hand knowledge of what nurses want, what they need on the job, and what does and does not work. You understand how staffing cuts and budget changes have a direct impact on patient care and on nurses’ morale. You know that changes in health care policy or in insurance regulations can turn some of your patients’ lives upside down. Becoming a nurse activist is as simple as taking that first step to speaking up, to adding your voice and your time to organizations that work for the nursing industry.

Change Your Locale

Do you live in Boston but want to try life in Oregon? Nurses have skills that travel anywhere and you have the opportunity to live and work in all corners of the world. Whether you want to become a traveling nurse or practice in the most remote areas, your change in locale can bring changes in salary, experience, and perspective that will come in handy throughout your career. Some states allow nurse practitioners to operate on their own with some oversight by a physician. If you want to try having your own practice, this is one way you can do that.

Find a New Specialty

Are you the nurse who only wanted ER work, but now find yourself ready for something new? You can move among units with more ease than most professionals, and gaining varied nursing experience will give you valuable skills. Organizations want nurses who have seen and done a lot with patient care. The more you can move around, the more sought after you will become as a career nurse.

Perform Research

Using your nursing skills to focus on all kinds of research helps you in several ways. Nurses who have spent time interacting with patients and families are great at collecting the data needed for research. Their critical thinking skills and their familiarity with health topics also helps them analyze the data and make sense of findings.

Check out nursing career guides like this one from the National Student Nurses’ Association to see all the different ways you can use your nursing degree.

5 Steps to a Management Role

5 Steps to a Management Role

Do you ever wonder what it takes to get to the nurse executive level? Does running a hospital or being a chief nursing officer sound like your ideal job?

Getting to a management level is an attainable goal if you know how to get there. No matter where you are in your nursing career, you can always set new goals and start taking steps to achieve new milestones.

1. Set a Goal

You have to have a goal, know that goal, and be very direct about it,” says Al Rundio, PhD, DNP, RN, APRN, CARN-AP, NEA-BC, DPNAP, FIAAN, and associate dean for post licensure nursing programs at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Rundio, who started his career as a teenage orderly, says having degrees is crucial to career advancement for any nurse. But it takes both the educational background and the professional experience to really move you forward to management roles. You have to be confident when you come up against barriers and be willing to take chances to get what you want.

2. Get the Education and Experience

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree is an excellent goal, but it won’t launch you into hospital administration. “You have to work your way up and have a track record,” says Rundio. While you’re getting your degrees, gain experience by taking on increasingly challenging administration-based roles in your workplace so you can prove your worth.

Don’t be daunted by the extra degrees often needed for executive roles, says Rundio. “More education just helps,” he says, noting that all his post associate’s degree education was completed part time. “You don’t have to do it full time, but just chip away at it and get it done. Learning is lifelong.”

3. Focus, Focus, Focus

What’s really available for executive level nurses? Lots, says Rundio. Knowing what you enjoy and what you’re good at will help you set your goal and take the right steps to get there. In Rundio’s case, he initially wanted to be a hospital CEO. As his career allowed more work with administration, he realized how much he enjoyed the problem solving and the chance to improve things for nurses that executive-level roles allowed.

He planned career moves to advance. “I realized to get there I had to have a stepping stone,” he says. When he eventually reached CNO, he thought he was one step closer to the CEO role he wanted. But after 11 years working as a CNO and loving it, Rundio’s goals changed. “I really loved this role,” he says. “I realized I don’t want to be a CEO.” With the CEO responsibilities more outwardly focused and the CNO role more on the daily operations, Rundio said he enjoyed the latter. Changing his goals kept his personal goals and professional career on track.

4. Make It Work for You

When setting your carer goals also consider what parts of nursing you enjoy the most. If you like administration, but don’t want to give up with caring directly for patients, assume clinical roles whenever you can or work them into your administrative role. Rundio continued to practice in a residential center and spent days circulating in the emergency room as a CNO. The clinical work satisfied his desire to work with patients and also boosted his understanding of clinical operations as a CNO.

5. Be Essential

Executive roles are often vulnerable when money gets tight. Rundio advises nurse executives or those thinking of that path to continue with clinical work, getting a nurse practitioner’s license and keeping it current. “Having the NP license as a back up is not a bad thing to have,” he says. Balancing both administrative and clinical roles isn’t easy, but it makes you essential to your organization. “You can do both successfully,” says Rundio. “It’s up to you. It is a fine-tuned balance.”

There’s no straight path to reaching executive roles, and it helps to know what you want so you can take the right steps to get there. Education, experience, and persistence will all pay off.