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Career Progression Tips for Nurses

When it comes to professional development, healthcare organizations are often constrained by budgets and pressure on resources, making it difficult for them to focus on individuals and their progression. As such, it’s really down to the individual to find their own ways to progress. Having a pro-active and can-do attitude is the first step in creating a positive and successful career ladder for yourself, and to help you get started, we’ve got a few tips to share.

Take ownership

The best careers are those that keep you on your toes and feeling challenged. If you’re finding yourself stuck in a rut, it’s time to make a change. And the only person that can make that change is you.

In order to progress, you first need to take ownership of your career. It’s easy to hope that managers will acknowledge your work and offer you new opportunities, but this could take years – or might never happen.

Those that adopt a more proactive approach will find success. Be prepared to step out of the comfort zone and into the unknown; look out for opportunities both in your current workplace and outside; do research into potential new routes and start asking for what you want. The worst that can happen is someone says no – but don’t let this get to you!

Dedicate time to your goals

Schedule time into your diary to sit down and work on your progression. You might find that the career you want to pursue requires you to take DNP nursing leadership courses or an additional qualification. If this is the case, get applying and plan how you’ll study and continue to work.

In your dedicated planning time, you should aim to set goals for yourself with deadlines. That way, you can hold yourself accountable when things aren’t done. Goals need to be achievable, though and can be as small as sending an email to a local GP practice about work shadowing.

Do plenty of research

While you might have an interest in a certain role, it’s important to do plenty of research. What qualities do you need? What qualifications do you need to have? What is the job really like?

Gathering information from people already in the profession is a great way to get an impartial view. See if there is an opportunity for you to work shadow someone in your dream role, or simply take them for a coffee to see how they really feel about their job.

Sometimes jobs seem perfect, but when you learn about the day-to-day work, it can be a very different story.

Shadowing opportunities

If you’re already working within a healthcare setting, there will likely be other members of staff working in similar roles to the one you’d like. If this is the case, you can speak to your manager to explain how you think shadowing said person would improve your knowledge and method for the current role you’re in. Managers are much more likely to be open to the idea if it isn’t going to interfere with your current position. If they see that you’re looking to work shadow in order to leave your current role, they may be less inclined to accept the offer.

Shadowing is also a great option for those who aren’t entirely sure what type of role they want to have next. Contact other external organizations and clinics to shadow in your spare time to get a better feel of a number of different roles that you could then choose from. Some will suit you more than others. Contacting alternative clinics and practices will also give you a great network of new contacts. So, if you end up wanting to take on a new role, you’ll know a variety of people that can help open all the right doors for you.

Organize informal visits

Arranging informal visits with potential employers is actually quite common in the healthcare sector. Informal visits give you the chance to get a feel for the working environment, ask employers questions, and make new contacts. But it’s also a chance for a potential employer to get a first impression of you, too.

While it is informal, it’s likely that the employer will be watching to see how you conduct yourself. So be sure to stay professional and polite. It’s even little things like thanking someone for giving you a tour or smiling at patients that walk past you.

Tip: If or when you try to apply for roles in the organization, make sure to reference your previous visit and say what you liked about the environment and why you think you’d be a great fit.

Get networking

LinkedIn isn’t just for business people. There is a huge number of people that use the platform to network with people in the same roles or those pursuing a similar career upgrade. Create your own network online or join an established nursing forum to get the inside scoop on the roles you’d like. Then, take advantage of your new network: contact members for shadowing or volunteer opportunities in your area. The more experience you can get, the better chance of success you’ll have.

Sign up to volunteer

As we all know, there’s a significant shortage of staff in healthcare; most workplaces will be more than happy to take you on as a volunteer. Who doesn’t love staff that work for free?

Volunteering is the perfect way to get experience within the field you’re interested in, as well as learn any additional skills you’ll need for the job. It also gives you a chance to leave a great impression with any potential employers.

Organizations will often take on volunteers to fill the jobs or knowledge gaps they’re missing, meaning you’ll likely be provided free training in the first few days.

Make the most of your appraisals

Appraisals might be few and far between, depending on how large your team is. But they’re a great opportunity to get your current manager on board with your plans. Take the time to explain your career ideas and see what additional responsibilities they might be able to give you. You can see if they have any contacts for shadowing or volunteering.

When it comes to career progression, knowledge is power. By preparing yourself with research, qualifications, and people already in the industry, you can work your way up the ladder for the job of your dreams.

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