My nursing career started over 30 years ago when I became a nursing assistant at my local VA hospital, later getting my RN at age 26. I had no clear nursing career goals at that time, I just knew I wanted to work in a hospital and no where else.
My career has consisted of working in, psychiatry, med – surg , cardiac, emergency room, student health, oncology, hospice, oncology home health and now nurse entrepreneur.
So after turning 50, being very tired and burnt out from bedside nursing, I finally sat down and wrote out my plan step by step.
Why did it take so long?
Way back in the beginning of my career, I thought writing down your career goals was for those nurses who wanted to move into management. I wanted to be a staff nurse and had no intention of moving into management. I didn’t need a plan, right?
Wrong, I finally learned that yes, I do need a plan; all nurses should have a plan. It doesn’t matter whether you’re staying where you are or moving into management, you still need a plan.
Here’s a few tips about planning your nursing career.
Write it down. From the beginning of your nursing career, have a written plan in place. How you see yourself in 3-5 years from now? Write it down and refer to it often, make adjustments and keep planning your next move.
Set long and short term nursing career goals. Start with a beginning date and an end date for each short and long term goal. If you want to go back to school for your BSN, your short term goal could be when you will start and the long term goal could be when you will finish.
Write out the steps needed to achieve your goals such as Step one for going back to school – I will research nursing schools, looking at tuition, amount of time it will take. Step 2 – filling out the application forms. Be sure to set time limits as to when each step will be completed, otherwise you could spend too much time on researching nursing schools and never moving on to the next step.
Research your nursing specialty. With the Internet it’s easy to find information on a nursing specialty you have been interested in pursuing. Find out what’s needed to get into that nursing specialty, would you need more education or specialized training? What transferable skills do you already have that you could use for your new position? All nursing specialties have an organization or association you can join or sign up for their newsletter.
You can also find a nurse who is working in that field and see if you could talk to her about how she got her job, this is valuable information you could use on your resume or interview.
Never stop learning. Take CE credits outside your field of expertise or classes offered by your employer. Try new techniques, become computer savvy, be willing to learn new procedures, stay up to date with technology, policies and procedures. Always keep learning, never stop.
You must make the choice to manage your own nursing career, no one will do it for you and you won’t get the results you’re looking for if you do nothing because by doing nothing ( like I did for a long time) your environment will make the choice for you, and I guarantee you it won’t be what you want.