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Career Progression Tips For Nurses

Update Date: Oct 15, 2021 02:53 PM EDT
Career Progression Tips For Nurses
(Photo : Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay )

There is a need for nurses in all countries in the world, in all sectors, in all ways. If you read reports on the matter, you'll even see that there is something of a crisis in nursing, as there is a shortage of good, qualified, dedicated nurses in most placed around the world, including the USA. Nurses are needed, but equally, people need to find careers they are comfortable with and that they can progress in if they have an ambitious streak. It might seem as though this idea of progressing in a career and nursing are two distinct things, and you would have to choose one or the other, but the reality is that there is a great deal of career progression available in nursing.

The fact that nurses can rise up in their jobs can come as a surprise to people who thought that there was only one level of nursing. However, if you have big career goals and you want to help people (especially when you consider how nurses are needed so much), then nursing could really be the ideal career path for you to take. It will give you everything you're looking for, and in the end, you can rise to a very high level and be very proud of yourself.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing, then read on; here are some excellent career progression tips for nurses to ensure that they not only make a difference to their patients' lives, but to their own lives too.

Take Your Time

You might be entirely sure of the career progression path you want to take, knowing that accelerated nursing programs are going to offer you the additional qualifications you need. Or perhaps you know that you want to work in a specific hospital area or an entirely different setting altogether. Having these goals is excellent, but whether you know what you intend to do or not, there is no need to rush. When you hurry through your life plans, it's easy to make a mistake, and it's far better to take your time, think carefully about every move you make, and concentrate on being the best nurse you can possibly be. When you do this, you can be entirely sure of the direction you decide to go in, and you can ensure you get excellent reviews from managers and that you know just what to do in your job. On the other hand, rising up through the levels of nursing too quickly might mean you have to go back and start all over again or that you make an error that isn't easy to fix.

The ideal thing to do is to give yourself some time to relax, be calm, and be away from work for a while so you can think about things without anything else getting in the way. Consider all the different options, and work out your career goals slowly but surely. Write them down, and be aware that they can change depending on what happens next. Never be afraid to change your mind or your direction if something doesn't feel right.


When you are a nurse, and you have ambitions of reaching a higher level, or you want to specialize in some area of nursing, such as cancer treatment or working with acute trauma patients or anything else, you'll find that going back to school and studying for a second degree is the best thing you can do. Do this with an online course and you'll have all the time you need to learn at a pace that suits you, plus your studies won't interfere with your work.

However, although this is crucial and you won't get very far without this qualification, it's also important to network as much as you can, as this could make a big difference in how far you can get in your career at certain times. Of course, you'll have to have the qualifications, as mentioned above, and you'll need to have experience, but these things coupled with knowing the right people could be very important indeed.

Networking isn't just for people in business; nurses truly can benefit too. You might, for example, find a mentor when you are networking, and a mentor can help guide you in the right direction to get where you want to go. You could ask them for help regarding:

  • The degree subject to study
  • How to apply for different jobs
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • What to do to be a better nurse for your patients

Not only this, but a mentor is someone you can talk to when you are getting stressed and potentially feeling the effects of burnout at work. Having this ear to speak to, someone who knows what you are going through, can be exactly what's needed when it comes to talking about your feelings and becoming less stressed. Remember, nursing is a stressful, challenging (albeit rewarding) career, and you need to get help with something to see you through it. Look on LinkedIn, your local Facebook pages, or specialist nursing forums, as well as your own workplace, to see who you can turn to for help when needed.


What exactly is shadowing in relation to career advancement for nurses? Shadowing is exactly what it sounds like; you would be following a more experienced, high-level nurse to see what it is they do and get a better understanding of the work they carry out, the responsibilities they have, and who they are in charge of. Although you probably won't be doing any nursing yourself, this is the ideal opportunity to get a much better idea of exactly what it would be like to get to the next level, or even a few levels above that.

When shadowing, you'll need to choose just what it is you're most interested in, whether that's a type of nursing, a career grade or level, or a specific department. When you know what it is you want to see, you can approach the right people and ask if you can shadow them. This can be hard to do (unless you have a mentor who can help or have other connections from your networking), but many people find it worth doing. It's a way to get a true insight into that kind of work and show you what you would be up against before you start down any particular path. It will allow you to know before you make any commitments just what kind of work and expertise would be expected of you.

Of course, shadowing is something you would need to do on your days off. It doesn't have to be a secret from your current work, but you will need to commit more than one day to it - the more time you can spend shadowing the nurse who is doing the job you're interested in doing at some point, the more you'll get to understand, and you'll know whether you're making the right decision or not.


Volunteering is something that helps many other people, no matter what kind of volunteering you are doing. However, it's also something that will help you in your mission to advance in your nursing career, and it will always look good when you can detail it on your resume. This is especially true if you have volunteered as a nurse somewhere or you've helped people using your specialist nursing skills. Perhaps you traveled to another country to help out after a disaster, or maybe you stayed local and worked at a blood bank. Whatever it was, it's going to look impressive when a potential employee or new manager sees it.

As well as potentially helping you immensely in your nursing progression ambitions, volunteering can assist you in many other ways as well. It can give you more confidence, for example, as you'll be more sure of what you can do and of your particular skills. Plus, you'll probably need to talk to all kinds of different people, allowing your confidence to grow even more and also to enhance your communication skills.

Gain More Qualifications

Nursing is a unique kind of job when you think about it. You need to be very compassionate, and you need to care for your patients, being kind and helping them as much as possible. However, you also need to have many medical skills and a lot of technical knowledge to ensure that the medical work you do is right and is what's best for the patient. This is a combination that you won't find in many other places; most careers fall into either the technical element or the caring one, not a mixture of the two.

With that in mind, although the caring side is most likely to be part of your personality, and therefore not something you can necessarily enhance (although experience will always help), the knowledge side of things is something you can improve as much as possible, and that's exactly what you should do at any given opportunity. The more you can learn, the more you'll be able to help your patients, and the more you'll be able to accomplish in your career.

To do this, you should gain extra qualifications. We have mentioned this briefly above, but it's hugely important, so it's something you really do need to think carefully about. Gaining these extra skills will give you the knowledge and technical abilities you need to take your career in any direction you want. You can either take a generalized nursing qualification and then choose your career path, or you can choose your career path and then take the degree that matches it and will allow you to do what you want to do. The option you choose has to be the right one for you, and it's not something you can rush into. Make sure you have considered everything carefully.

Speak To Your Manager

When it comes to advancing your career, there are many things you will need to do, as we've already seen. However, something that many people don't think about either because it really doesn't occur to them or they're not comfortable with the idea is speaking to their manager. This can feel like a daunting thing to do, and if you're not confident about what you're saying and don't know what to ask, you might feel happier going about researching what you need to do all by yourself. The truth is, though, that a good manager will want to hear about your ideas and ideals, and they'll be keep to help you progress. In nursing, as many nurses as possible stick with the career, and career progression must be one way to ensure that happens, so your manager is going to be open to speaking to you about the next steps you'll need to take to get where you want to go, or at least get closer to it.

Many nurses will have regular appraisals, and this is the perfect chance to speak to your manager about your work and how they see your career. They might already have some ideas about what you can do, and they just need to see if you are willing to take those next few steps. Or perhaps they didn't realize what ambitions you have, but when they do, they will know how to help you. They might even be able to suggest other ideas if they have seen that you're more proficient in one area than another.

If you need to make an appointment with your manager ahead of your appraisal, don't be shy; make the appointment and have an in-depth discussion about what you want and how you can get there. This might be a difficult thing to do, but it really will be worthwhile in most cases, and you might discover things about yourself that you never knew, helping you to make better choices in terms of your career progression in general.


Nurses have a lot of choices. As soon as they are qualified RNs and have gained experience, they can go on to do whatever they feel they want to do, and since there is so much choice, the world truly is open to them. This can feel overwhelming, but rest assured, it's a positive thing; no matter what you want out of life, no matter how you see things going, nursing is the career that can offer you a chance to make those dreams come true

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