5 tips for getting ahead in nursing

Susanna Kahr

Nursing is a job like no other. Not only can you make a real difference to people’s lives, you can also earn a high salary, work flexibly and travel around the country whilst doing so. What’s more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a shortage of about 800,000 nurses by 2020 as people are living much longer and need more medical care. This means that hospitals and medical facilities are always looking for nurses, so if you want to get ahead in your nursing career, now’s the time.

Think outside the box

Nursing used to be a more traditional hospital-based job, but this has changed over the past few decades. Nursing today takes place in other settings like the home community and specialist clinics, there’s even the chance to become a travel nurse and work in hospitals and clinics throughout the country. After you become an RN, you can take your career in many different directions. You can work in the justice system as a legal nurse consultant, or in trauma care or wound care. You could also transition into case management, population-care coordination, wellness coaching, disease management or ambulatory care. Or, if you wanted to try something completely new, you could work as a writer, teacher or a researcher.

“My coworkers and myself often think outside of the box in order to best assist our patients.” – anonymous employer review at Sunrise Community Health

Try a new role

If you’ve already racked up years of experience in a specific nursing role, you might want to think about taking on a new challenge so you can expand your skills. Working in a new department, with different colleagues doesn’t mean starting again, it means building on the foundations you’ve already established. You should bear in mind, though, that it can take 3-6 months to master a new skill, so be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time to get comfortable with everything.

Did you already check our article on surprisingly well paid jobs in the healthcare industry? Check it out and find your perfect new role!

Boost your emotional intelligence

Working as an RN requires a huge amount of emotional intelligence as you need to be able to read all kinds of signs to establish the level of pain a patient is in, and find out what they’re concerns are. It’s no wonder then that today’s healthcare employers are as interested in a job candidates’ and employees’ emotional intelli­gence as they are in their credentials. There are lots of ways to improve your emotional intelligence including coaching or mentoring, taking on further higher education, taking on new projects, honing your communication and social skills, and building support systems.

“The main focus will always be providing quality care for patients and making sure that their individual needs are met; with that being said as an employee for this company I feel that the company is very good at balancing the needs of the patients with the needs of their employees.”– anonymous employer review at Ohioan Home Health Care Inc. 

Build and utilize your network

Not only do networks help to boost your emotional intelligence, they’re also great for helping you find out about exciting opportunities within nursing and providing you with lots of new ideas. When it comes to building your network, a good place to start is by joining existing organizations such as Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, the American Nurses Association and your state’s nursing association and attending their conferences and workshops. You can also start building a network of colleagues within your own healthcare organization and setting up your own reading groups, workshops or webinars.

Check out our list of the Top 10 healthcare companies with awesome career development to find the perfect employer for you!

Become a mentor

Do you have a new arrival in your team who is working in nursing for the first time and could do with a helping hand? Why not become their mentor? Equally, if there’s a colleague at work whom you see as a role model, why not ask them if they would mind mentoring you? You could also join a formal mentoring programs run by organizations such as AONE. There are lots of options when it comes to mentoring and whilst it takes time to establish the mentor-mentee relationship, it can be really rewarding for both parties as there’s always plenty to learn from each other.



Are you working as an RN right now? Then let us know what your employer is like and what kind of opportunities you have to advance your career by writing a review on our site. Your insights will help other RNs in their search for the right job, so every review is really appreciated. 

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