There are a wide variety of careers available for nurses today. Whether you are working in a hospital or putting your skills to use in a non-clinical position, one commonality shared by nearly every nursing role is the expectation of continued professional development and lifelong learning to remain current and up-to-date on best practices. Consider the following tips for new nurses:
#1 - Take a Course in Technology
New devices are always emerging to help measure and document patient health. From cardiac monitors to evolving electronic medical records, nurses who are skilled in the use of technology are prepared to excel in the advancing information technology culture of health care.
#2 - Obtain a Nursing Specialty Certification
If there is a patient population or specialty area you are passionate about, you might consider obtaining a specialty certification. There are quite a few nursing certifications available to pursue. The list below is a small sampling of the options:
- Holistic nursing
- Emergency nursing
- Operating room nursing
- Hospice and palliative care
- Critical care nursing
- Nursing informatics
Each certification has individual requirements for education and testing to confirm competency and obtain credentials. If you are looking to learn but not necessarily commit to a certification program, you might opt for the completion of specialty-specific continuing education.
#3 - Complete Continuing Education on Current Topics or Advancements in the Field
When presenting your resume to potential employers, you have the option to highlight recent continuing education. You can be intentional about the selection of educational offerings to showcase expertise even where you may not have obtained a formal certification. An example of this would be to complete a continuing education series for nurses in a universally relevant topical area such as trauma-informed care.
#4 - Plan Your Day in Advance
Nurses have many tasks to complete in the course of a work day. For nurses in the hospital setting, these tasks include shift handoff, patient assessment, medication administration, charting, phone communication, email correspondence, and many other responsibilities. In ambulatory clinics, nurses often have similar activities for each scheduled patient.
The workday for a nurse will come with interruptions, but planning known items in advance including a general workflow can help organize your day. Nurses who work in the community may have commutes to and from patient homes or facilities. Thoughtful arranging of a schedule can save resources such as time and gasoline, making your day smoother and your availability greater for communicating with patients and families.
Whether your plans are written eloquently in a calendar notebook or pondered during a few minutes of morning quiet time, planning in advance is an organizational skill that can relieve stress and promote efficiency in nearly all nursing practices.
#5 - Engage in Regular Self-Care
Nurses are caregivers by profession. In order to care for others, it is essential to take time and care for yourself. Compassion fatigue may be experienced in all nursing disciplines and is especially present in nursing roles where nurses are regularly exposed to patient suffering. Long shifts and physical exertion can lead to burnout and exhaustion if not managed in healthy ways.
Some suggestions for regular self-care include:
- Reading a book
- Listening to music
- Scheduling days off work
- Checking email during work hours only
- Getting a massage
- Prayer and meditation
Whatever your activity of choice, regular self-care is a must for working nurses.
#6 - Refine Your Interpersonal Skills
Sometimes the best way to improve your interpersonal skills is simply by giving greater attention to them. As a nurse, you likely have the opportunity each day to interact with patients, families, coworkers, and other members of an interdisciplinary team.
To become a better active listener, you can set a goal to complete advanced training in motivational interviewing and collaborative communication techniques to further build upon your nursing communication skills. Additional practice hours with the intent to truly listen and partner in counseling patients can go a long way in refining the skills for therapeutic nurse-patient relationships.
#7 - Expand Your Professional Network
Membership in professional organizations is one way nurses can connect and share professional goals. This is made possible through nursing conferences, state and local events, and even social media. Collaborative projects may emerge when you expand your professional network. A good starting place is to explore your state or national nurses association and review current initiatives to see where you might join in. Teamwork can be a fulfilling part of nursing.
#8 - Find Personal Inspiration and Motivation
Do you remember why you became a nurse? Take time to rediscover what personally inspires and motivates you to do your job well and use that as a starting point for your growth. Working in the nursing profession requires a mindset for lifelong learning and development.
Do you find the greatest purpose in advocating for patients? You may strive to stay in monthly communication with resources in your community so that you can best be a liaison for patients when they need continuity of care. Health coaching and support groups are useful for many patients as a supplement to primary care services. Nurses who are equipped with knowledge of available resources are most helpful in connecting patients to sources of support.
#9 - Follow a Leadership Mentor
If your goal is to become a nursing executive, you might consider following a leadership mentor. Nursing leadership qualities are applicable in many situations. Excellent nursing leaders have integrity in both professional relationships and patient care.
If you follow a leadership mentor and learn that you prefer not to work in a formal nursing leadership position, you may find that leadership skills are valuable even in direct patient care roles. You may find the greatest opportunities for nursing leadership are in leading by example for your patients.
#10 - Educate Your Patients
Professional relationships with patients are a major part of nursing care. As a nurse, you have both a responsibility and a privilege to provide patient education that can empower patients to improve symptom management and quality of life.
As you grow in a nursing specialty area or become passionate about supporting those with a particular condition, you may have the opportunity to develop a patient education series or support program. Family nurse practitioners walk alongside their patients and educate about potential treatment options for disease processes so that patients have the information they need to make decisions.
#11 - Advance Your Clinical Competency
Critical thinking is learned through practice. A nursing career goal might be to focus on improving the ability to better identify cardiac abnormalities by honing these specialty skills. If you are interested in orthopedics, you might take a refresher course on specific physical assessment techniques for identifying sports injuries.
Selecting a single area of clinical competency that you want to improve is a way to focus your efforts. Another way to advance your clinical competency is to advance your level of education. Becoming a family nurse practitioner gives working nurses an opportunity to provide the next level of care with increased nursing autonomy.
#12 - Enroll in a Graduate Nursing Education Program
An excellent way to increase your earning potential and expand your career is to enroll in a graduate nursing program. Graduate education may provide you opportunities to network with classmates, learn from qualified faculty, work on publication skills, advance your practical nursing experience, and refresh your motivation for patient care as you are inspired by your colleagues. Online programs also offer flexibility as you complete your degree.
These tips for new nurses can set you on the right path in shaping the career you envision. What will your next step be? There are many nursing career paths to consider, including the path to become a family nurse practitioner.
Become an FNP with Carson-Newman University
You can become a Family Nurse Practitioner with Carson-Newman University online. For those with a BSN degree, Carson-Newman University offers an accredited MSN-FNP program that includes 100% online coursework. We also offer a post-master’s FNP certificate program. Both programs also include clinical experiences and the university collaborates with you to find placements and preceptors in your local area so you can maintain focus on your studies.
The possibility of advancing your education with a master’s degree from Carson-Newman allows the advancement of your education in a format that supports work-life balance. If you're ready to start your FNP journey part-time at a competitive price, download your free Carson-Newman FNP program guide today.