Whether you are a recently licensed nurse in your first job or you have already been working as a nurse for many years, chances are good that you’re interested in advancing your career to the next level. This might be an increase in pay, a change in role, an increase in responsibility or leadership, or a job in a more desirable facility, location, or setting.
Though advanced degrees or further schooling can assist some advancement goals, rarely will promotions or career advancement happen through degrees alone. Much of what determines whether you’ll be able to take your career forward are actually the skills you demonstrate in your daily performance.
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This is good news — this means that you can actively work towards making that next promotion possible without necessarily having to take on an expensive and time-consuming degree program. Here are a few of the most important skills you’ll need to climb the career ladder as a nursing professional.
Honing Critical Thinking Skills
As a nurse, you are constantly bombarded with decisions and choices to make. How will you interpret this patient’s descriptions of pain or need? What could be causing that monitor’s alarm, and will you respond to it yourself or alert other medical staff? Will you support or denounce your doctor’s recent questionable treatment decision in front of the patient’s family?
The nursing profession is full of nuanced, technical, or high-gravity decisions that affect other people’s wellbeing and even their lives. Sharp, effective critical thinking skills are absolutely vital for every nurse.
Critical thinking encompasses a few different and distinct skill sets that should all be exercised and improved. These include tasks like analysis and reasoning, like deducing conclusions or theories from chart information or from a patient’s descriptions of their pain or ailment. They also include communication, like being able to clearly explain a diagnosis to a patient that is having difficulty comprehending the information they’ve been given.
Operating with Professionalism
Nurses that talk badly about their coworkers, treat patients inconsistently, allow grudges to form, or are unreliable at work will seldom receive strong recommendations or promotion offers. Behaving professionally in a nursing role includes treating patients and fellow medical staff with respect; responding kindly and helpfully even at the end of long shifts or to individuals that are acting disrespectfully; showing up to work on time; and promoting transparency, integrity, and adequate care standards for all patients.
These attributes not only make you much more pleasant to work with but are highly valued and will most certainly be noticed by your peers and your superiors.
Integrating Strong Self-Care Practices
As a nurse, your role can impose a large amount of stress and difficulty on you. Without effectively managing that stress, nurses are susceptible to experiences such as burnout and mental illness if it isn’t addressed. Even without reaching the large and sustained levels that could cause burnout or mental health problems, stress that isn’t effectively dealt with can cause exhaustion, apathy, frustration or irritability, strong emotional responses, and more.
An effective tool to help regulate the stress you experience as a nurse is self-care. By prioritizing things such as getting enough sleep, spending relaxing time with family or friends outside work settings, and incorporating regular recreational activities that you enjoy, you can invest in your health and work performance in significant ways that can keep you feeling and performing your best even for the long haul.
Remaining Teachable and Humble
No matter what role or level of seniority he or she might hold, every nurse has more to learn. As you contemplate what kind of career advancement you want to pursue, make sure you remain open to identifying areas of weakness you’d like to improve on or places where you have more to learn that can make you more compatible with the role you’re seeking.
Whether this looks like informally (or formally) shadowing co-workers who hold responsibilities or roles you aren’t as familiar with or asking a veteran nurse to mentor you for a period of time, taking proactive measures to improve yourself as a nurse and gain new skills and aptitudes will not only prepare you for when that promotion comes around but, often, will be noticed and rewarded by superiors.
Keeping these areas of proficiency and growth in mind as you perform your nursing duties can help you not only improve your performance in your current role but can lay the groundwork for attracting and securing promotions into higher and better roles in the future.