Nursing is a highly academic field that is becoming increasingly more competitive. Hospitals and clinics are in desperate need for qualified individuals to serve in many functions both in and away from the bedside and clinic. What if you are ready to take the next steps in your Career but aren’t sure what to do or where to go? Well, don’t worry — there are a lot of things you can do to set yourself up for career advancement without even leaving your current position or spending a dime for school.
Most hospitals and clinics will allow BSN level nurses to work in mid-level management positions and some even higher than that. As a basic foundation for starting your career, you will want to have a BSN. Without a BSN the best you can do is make a lateral move, meaning you won’t be able to climb the ladder, so to speak. Educationally, a BSN will be the building blocks for most nurses. In fact, the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 nursing report is placing a strong emphasis on getting 80% of the nursing workforce to have their BSN by 2020. Most new graduates will be starting with a BSN. But if that’s not you, then you need to consider programs that bring you straight from a two-year degree to a master’s degree. Nonetheless, nurses need to be cautious about going back for graduate work. Trouble is, nursing is very specialized. If you go one route, you’re kind of stuck there, even if you don’t like it. For now, there are many things you can do without committing to an advanced degree to further your career right where you are.
Committees serve an important role within the organization. They help to address issues or goals the organization, department, or unit wants (or needs) to address without having to designate someone solely for that job. It is a collaborative approach that promotes shared decision-making and accountability. These groups are multidisciplinary and generally have multiple levels of leadership from frontline staff to management. Often times these groups get a bad rap (as expressed here), but they can serve as meaningful opportunities to problem solve real issues, brush shoulders with leaders, and expose yourself to what happens at the next level. Committee experience helps to build your resume as well. Down the road when you start applying for different jobs, committee experience will help to show that you are more prepared for a role beyond your current position.
If you’re struggling to determine which direction to go for your career, then job shadows are a must! Some people know what they want to do, but for the rest of us: Job Shadow. This will probably need to be done on paid time off, but it will give you a real world experience and show you what a day in the life of a (insert a position) would be. Job descriptions these days are as helpful as a flashlight in broad daylight. What you should be looking for is a down-to-earth experience that shows you what it is really like to work in a particular position. You want to hear about the nuances of being in this type of position. A job shadow will, of course, expose you to other leaders and help you to pick up on the cultural leadership at the next level. Be careful not to like or dislike the experience too much because of the person you shadow. For better, or seemingly more often worse, people we follow leave a lasting impact our perception of the job. Try to stay level headed about this and don’t get too high or low about the job based on how well you connect with the person you are following. Lastly, job shadows expose other people to you. It gives people an idea of who you are and what you might bring to the table.
Leading a project on your unit has significant implications for career advancements. If your unit is like any other, there will be plenty of things to try, change, or improve. Healthcare is always changing. Talk to you manager or supervisor and let him or her know that you’d be willing to lead a project that would benefit the unit. This gives you on-the-job leadership development. As with most changes, you will be forced to interact with multiple different groups which will diversify your leadership. Taking on a role like this will lead to additional work. If you don’t work a full 40 hours a week, you could work some extra hours, or if your manager is willing, you could take time out of your regular schedule to work on the project. Heading a project shows a lot of initiative and is an opportunity for you to show your manager and the organization what you are capable of. If this goes well, you could end up presenting your project at nursing conferences or within your organization.
You don’t have to go out and get a degree in order to start advancing your career. Most nurses can create opportunities with what is right around them. Pursuing these things will allow you to get a better idea of your passions, talents, abilities, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Luckily, nursing has something for everyone. So don’t feel stuck in your current situation but see the endless possibilities around you.