Nurses should prepare their own road maps to career success as early as possible. And it all starts with passion.
Nurses have numerous opportunities to advance health and elevate the profession. To do this effectively, they must commit to ongoing professional development and lifelong learning.
In turn, we acquire new skills and expertise that can enable us to secure promotions, expand our area of influence and make lasting contributions to the field.
My own desire to eliminate breast cancer disparities inspired me to pursue a number of leadership roles in government and non-governmental settings. As an experienced clinician, educator, researcher and policy advocate, I had to pursue additional education, certifications and a myriad of continuing educational offerings in order to intensify my efforts against breast cancer.
I vividly recall swearing to never return to school after my near-death experience with statistics. However, I eventually found myself enrolled in a doctoral program so that I could develop research skills to conduct research into breast cancer disparities. Since completing my doctoral degree, I have been to places I could have never imagined, in part because of my advanced education and willingness to take a few risks to strengthen my contributions to care.
Throughout all phases of my career, I searched for a comprehensive resource to help me take the next steps in my development. In fact, the experience of locating such a resource inspired the vision for the book Accelerate Your Career in Nursing: A Guide to Professional Advancement and Recognition. This book is designed to serve as a road map for those seeking recognition and advancement in nursing regardless of place of employment or practice specialty. Contributors to the book provide advice on navigating your career, coupled with their personal perspectives on how they have been able to advance their professional objectives.
Over the years, I have learned that preparing a personal plan of action for professional advancement is absolutely necessary and should be done as early as possible in one’s career. In addition to setting the traditional one- and five-year goals, we also need a concrete plan to accompany those goals. In mapping out a plan for advancement and recognition, I have found the following tips to be helpful. The concepts of passion, people, persistence, and productivity can be integrated into a single plan of action.
I am a firm believer that with so many options in nursing, it’s important to be true to yourself. I highly recommend pursuing your passion when it comes to selecting a focus in the field. My decision to prioritise breast cancer disparities early on in provided me with a focus in my various roles. In building on this passion, I was rewarded with opportunities for career advancement and professional recognition. I was often asked to participate in activities because I was viewed as an expert in the field.
Don’t get me wrong; being passionate about something still requires hard work and productivity. Accelerate Your Career in Nursing provides a number of assessment tools that can help you to identify your personal strengths and build a passionate career in nursing.
I strongly believe that nobody gets to where they are without the help of someone else. I have a number of role models, mentors, professors and even naysayers to thank for helping me find my way. Great mentors can be instrumental in helping you advance. They can provide sage advice on a number of professional issues and serve as a sounding board for ideas. People who have a passion for mentoring are especially eager to share their wisdom in hopes of enhancing another’s professional development.
The need for a mentor, and the type needed, can change over time. One may need a different type of support when pursuing graduate studies or taking on a new leadership role. As for me, I needed a public policy mentor who could share personal experiences in the political arena as I transitioned to a role in government affairs. This was unlike my previous mentors, who were nurse educators, expert clinicians and researchers. As nurses, we should cast a wide net and reach out to potential mentors inside and outside of the profession to enhance the breadth and depth of our professional enrichment. In addition, do not forget to keep in touch with former mentors and inform them of your accomplishments. And remember to share your newfound knowledge and serve as a mentor for someone else!
The notion “if you fail try again” certainly applies, especially when it comes to seeking admission into graduate school, earning entry into professional societies or pursuing recognition for your contributions. I vividly recall my multiple attempts to secure admission into my doctoral nursing program of choice. Whilst applying to graduate school, I was also busy retaking the GRE examination determined to get into a graduate program. I learned a valuable lesson – that the need for persistence and patience extend well beyond the doctoral application process. Just ask any author who has had the pleasure of rewriting a manuscript several times before final acceptance. The key to this process is to be open to criticism, as it can help strengthen the final product. The same applies to the grant seeking process. Individuals are rarely funded the first time around. Determination and ongoing persistence can be tremendously helpful when seeking advancement and recognition.
The notion of productivity reminds me of the phrase, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Throughout my career, I have tried to do something that would be meaningful to others because of my advanced education and many wonderful opportunities in nursing. I always encourage mentees and colleagues to get started on creating something that is uniquely theirs, rather it be a publication, presentation or project. Passion is a wonderful motivator!
Whatever the outcome, nurses must remember to capture accomplishments in their personal portfolio. This is a great thing to do, even when you are not actively seeking opportunities. The same applies to keeping an updated résumé or CV. Your never know when an opportunity may come knocking, and it is important to be ready. I started this habit many years ago and have been so glad I did. As nurses advance professionally, impromptu opportunities may surface by word of mouth, through personal invitation or even through an online call from various health-related organisations. You have to be ready, otherwise the time it takes to update your résumé can cost you an opportunity. Documenting your productivity as you go can save time and frustration when opportunity comes knocking.
Janice Phillips is the director of government and regulatory affairs at CGFNS International.
Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]