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Planning Your Nursing Career Path

If you are like many of us, once the calendar turns to August a slight feeling of melancholy accompanies it.  That simple flip of a page on your calendar signals that another summer is coming to a close, another school year is ramping up, and before too l

If you are like many of us, once the calendar turns to August a slight feeling of melancholy accompanies it.  That simple flip of a page on your calendar signals that another summer is coming to a close, another school year is ramping up, and before too long the leaves will change colors, and white flakes will start falling from gray skies.  But, August can also be a good time to turn your thoughts to your career.  As the children head back to school, maybe it’s time for you to join them and start adding a few educational building blocks toward your future.

Your first question might be, “How does one plan a nursing career path?”  What might surprise you is that it probably isn’t as complicated as you are making it out to be and the time you spend planning will pay off in the long run.  You already have your RN License and have been working Med/Surg for a few years, now what?  Let’s look at a few things that will help you plan your nursing career path.

Define your objective.  Fortunately, you have already chosen a career that can offer you an almost limitless variety of work environments, shift flexibility, hours, and settings.  Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing employment is expected to grow nearly 17% over the next decade.  With more than 100 recognized nursing specialties, your options are almost endless.  For starters, you can decide whether you want to stay close to patient care or would you prefer to branch out into an area with less patient contact.  Do you enjoy working in large hospital settings or is a community clinic a more comfortable setting for your personality?  Or maybe you want to focus your career more toward advanced practice nursing or even a managerial role.  Today, some of the hottest career opportunities are Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, and Nurse Practitioner.  Once you get a better sense of what the end goal looks like, you can start determining the best way for you to get there.

Learn more about the specialty.  No matter how much thought you put into trying to define your career objective, you might still need more information before committing to the educational demands.  One of the easiest ways to gather more information about your potential specialty is to seek out an association meeting and network with other like-minded professionals.  Who better to provide information and guidance about a particular career path than those are currently in that position?  Another way to learn more about a particular specialty is to find a way to use some personal time and “shadow” a nurse working in that specialty.  Some nurses may balk at “giving up” vacation time to learn about a new specialty, but in reality, it is an investment in your future.  Besides, the information and experience you gain is invaluable.

Create a timeline.  Now that you have decided what your career goal looks like, it is time to put it down on paper.  Depending on what career options you have decided on, there will be varying levels of educational and financial commitment.  Create a list of the steps you need to take and assign time frames for things to be completed.  You know yourself and your situation better than anyone, so it is important that you are realistic with the timeline you are setting for yourself.  Make sure one of the top items on your list is looking into financial aid and scholarships.  You can also check with your current employer to learn about educational benefits that may be available and look into potential federal grants for continuing education.

Other ways to advance your career.  While it is something you will have to do eventually, furthering your education isn’t the only way to add to your experience and prepare for the future.  There are other options available to you for that.  One way that RN’s can gain a lot of different experiences and learn new techniques and skills is by travel nursing.  Checking out travel assignments in different areas of the country will open your eyes to new methods while bolstering your confidence and also adding positive experiences to your resume.  A Supplemental Health Care recruiter can help you find the perfect opportunities to grow your career.  Another option for laying the foundation for advancement is seeking out cross training opportunities with your current employer.  Volunteering for new opportunities will expose you to different departments, teach you new skills, and set you apart as someone who wants to advance.

Yes, it’s August already, but there is still time to enjoy a few more backyard barbecues or trips to the beach.  While you are relaxing in your lounge chair by the pool or in the sand, take some time to think about your career and where you see yourself a few years down the road.  It doesn’t take much to get started on the path, you just have to decide which direction to take. Good luck with the planning and enjoy your nursing journey.

Are you in the middle of advancing your nursing career?  We want to hear your story about the decision-making process and what your plan is for the future.  Please share in the comment section below or stop by our Facebook page.