A successful career is something that most people crave and spend a great deal of time developing, only to find that their movement up the career ladder is slower than they thought.

There are those who will work in their original job for their entire working life, and this is a noble feat indeed. However, there are also those out there who will need to change and adapt, create new challenges, and find new roles. Then there are the lucky ones who are able to stay in the same career sector and yet either move up and progress through the ranks, so to speak. Nursing is one of those careers that can be a lifelong calling and provide one of the most stable and rewarding careers out there.

This article gives six simple tips to progress your nursing career and provides you with ideas as to how you, too, can build and develop a long-term career.

Have a goal

The best way to achieve a specific milestone or reach your potential is to set goals. The same goes for your career. Whether you are new to nursing and just considering your first step or have a qualification and experience, knowing where you want to end up is the key to feeling a sense of achievement. When goal setting for your career, think about what is important to you and about the stages of life that you will go through. If money is important, then be real and make this part of your ambition; once you have a final position, it is easier to plan smaller steps as to how to get there. The goal should look like a statement of intent and can be phrased such as, “I would like to be the senior family nursing manager earning over $95 000.00 per year.” It must, by definition, be a grand goal and a bit of a stretch to get to. You may also want to add a timeframe to the goal statement and keep it at the forefront of your mind as it does indeed serve to think positively about it.

It must be noted that setting unrealistic goals and having undue expectations of yourself will lead to unhappiness in your career. Yes, the goal should serve to stretch and challenge you to achieve your best, but setting an unachievable goal for your career can lead to ongoing disappointment and feelings of underachievement.

Set some achievable milestones and targets

Once the end goal has been determined and considered in detail, it will be essential to set smaller milestones that can be achieved along the way. These intermediate targets all serve to lead towards the bigger overarching goal and will make the process easier.

Be realistic and set date-related targets. It is also important to write these down, and if possible, talk it through with someone. It’s always easier to create an effective plan with some help and advice. Share the plan with someone who can help you and encourage you when things get tough, which they will at some point in the journey. So, for the goal as stated above, the smaller steps would be to become a family nurse practitioner, then after gaining experience, to study further, add a management course to the basket of nursing skills you are developing, and so on. Keeping the milestones and targets small and achievable means that you will always have something to celebrate and congratulate yourself on. Keep in mind that this is a journey, and there may be several wrong turns, but like any trip, you need to enjoy it as much as possible, and while your eyes are on the prize, keeping grounded and enjoying the now will be key to a healthier success.

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Identify the right courses or further development options/retrain

Unless you already have the skills, a plan to stay in nursing and work your way up the career ladder will require ongoing training and self-development. The skills that you enter the profession with will need to be upgraded on an ongoing basis to keep up with new developments in the field. Furthermore, any move between positions within the field will require you to be retrained or to add the required skills to your resume. To manage a team of family nurses, you will need to have come up through the ranks, and as such, start by looking for Family Nurse Practitioner programs that suit your budget and are available where you are based. It may not be possible to plan the entire training program or series of courses that you will need to reach the final goal, but as you study and build your educational, theoretical, and practical knowledge, you will be able to see what the next step you need to undertake will be in terms of study and professional development. There are short courses, degree courses, and specialized nursing sector training, and most if not all of it is now available online.

Choosing your studies is an especially important part of the process towards an improved nursing career. Although there is an endless array of choices and options, it will pay to do your research in this regard and only choose from courses that are accredited and offered by institutions that will provide industry-recognized certification. Each course taken and professional development undertaken should relate to your original goal and serve to meet the interim targets.

If a specific job becomes available in your state or in your current employment, you will need to be able to explore and consider the opportunity. This means always being ready, and the only way this can be the case is to be well versed in the skills and experience you have. Ongoing training and development are essential for this.

Speak to others in the field/healthcare

Your colleagues, management, and human resources department will be key advisors for any career changes. It helps if the people you work with are aware of some of your ambitions. Supervisors and management should be aware that you are looking for development and are open to opportunities in the field. It is often through discussions with others about what the nursing profession can offer that you become aware of the possibilities for career growth. Keeping an open mind about your role and the possibilities for development will mean that you are always looking for other ways to reach the end goal while also considering the things that you enjoy about the job and trying to do more of the enjoyable aspects.

Seek out the professional development advisor or human resource department or person and set up regular ongoing meetings to discuss your training needs and ensure that it is you who follows up and keeps the momentum going. It is, after all, your career, and you must drive its progress and direction.

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Complete the training

One of the most critical aspects of any career development process is the upgrading of the requisite skills and knowledge. Having selected a training course, regardless of what it may be, you need to finish it to the best of your ability. It will not be easy, especially if it is a mid-career change you are looking to make. The added pressures of work, family, and social time mean that many who start a career development process with additional study struggle to finish. Finishing the course is a risk factor and must be placed high on your agenda if a nursing career change is on the cards.

Job hunt

Having completed the training for any specific step of your plan for a better, brighter career in nursing, you will need to keep abreast of the opportunities that are available. The easiest way to move is to look at the opportunities in your current employment. Speak to HR and your line manager, reiterate from above that you are now ready for a move upwards or sideways depending on what you have planned. Actively seek out such opportunities. Waiting for the perfect job to be advertised may never happen.

Concluding comments

A career in nursing has been for a long time one of the most rewarding jobs there is. Those who have spent a career looking after others, and in some cases saving lives, and building families all note that the joy this has brought surpasses anything else they have done in the way of work.

Remuneration for nursing has risen, and the profession is at a crossroads in terms of the opportunities that are becoming available through technology and over the internet. The main thing to keep in mind through the process to build a strong career in healthcare and nursing is to enjoy it. There will be no point in having an immaculate and precise plan, doing all the hard work, and yet not enjoying the profession or jobs that you will have to do on your way up the ladder of success. The enjoyment factor is the main driving force for many successful people in the nursing field. It is a stressful yet rewarding role, and it will be exceedingly difficult to remain positive and upbeat throughout the career-building process unless you have a love and passion for what you do.

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