Nurses know their jobs are essential, but they also know their jobs aren’t typical in any way. They don’t have 9 to 5 hours and don’t always have a set schedule. And their duties can vary greatly.

Even the standard scrubs often associated with a nursing career don’t apply to everyone. Nurses might wear a suit to work or they might wear scrubs every day. Some might work with patients while others testify in front of Congress. Often, recruiters say they hear nurses comment that they are “just a nurse” and because of that they don’t always raise the game of a professional image.

Being a professional nurse and having an image to go with that means more than having a great resume or even an impressive title. What can you do to strengthen your professional image as a nurse?

Here are a few ideas.

Get on LinkedIn

Professionals use LinkedIn to network, find jobs if they are looking, reach out to candidates if they are hiring, and present their qualifications to the business world. But LinkedIn also has something even more essential—lots of online groups that you can contribute to and learn from.

Commenting, posting, and adding your well-thought-out ideas to LinkedIn groups and forums is an ideal way to begin making connections you might not have had an opportunity to make otherwise.

Have a Business Card

Does it seem silly to order business cards when your organization doesn’t offer them? Shouldn’t you just get what your company gives you? The short answer is loud and clear – no. According to Donna Cardillo, RN, known as the Inspiration Nurse, a business card puts you on equal footing when you network professionally or even socially.

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You never know when you’ll meet someone who could help you in your career at some point in the future and having the ability to give someone your card with your information is convenient and shows you are a prepared professional. Order inexpensive cards online and keep them basic. Don’t make your business card cutesy.

Join an Association

Join the local chapter of the American Nurses Association or whatever association matches your specialty or particular interest. Become an active member who attends meetings or volunteers to help with events. You’ll learn about educational opportunities, professional advancement, career tips, and meet other nurses. Attend the meetings with an enthusiasm for your field and a handy “elevator pitch” that explains to people quickly and accurately what your job is.

You might find that an association gives you a feeling of connection as well. That alone might help you get through any career bumps or detours.

Get Noticed

If you don’t have time to become president of the local nursing association or to volunteer to help with a petition drive, do something you can manage. But make sure you do something. Name recognition is important to any career, but it’s harder for nurses to get their names out in front of the public.

Write a letter to the editor about a cause that is particularly relevant to your own nursing interests and to the general public (vaccines, strikes, gun control, heart disease). Send it to several papers. Your opinion as a professional nurse carries a lot of weight, so back up your points with solid facts. Have someone proofread your letter to make sure it sounds good.

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There are lots of things you can do as a nurse to bring your professionalism up a notch. And as each nurse does takes steps to do so, their efforts raise the professionalism of the field as a whole.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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