How to Advance a Career in Nursing

After finishing your first degree and landing your first job, the next thing you should work on is advancing your career or getting a promotion. A promotion not only leads to better pay but also greater exposure. But what does it take to advance a career in nursing and to get a promotion? Consider the following tips

Know Your Goals

There are so many opportunities for career advancement and growth in the nursing sector. Start by identifying the direction you would like to take in the next few years. There are four key advancement opportunities you can consider. One, you can work towards earning a managerial position in the hospital. This involves becoming a senior nurse in charge of other nurses and even advancing to top management positions in the hospital’s administration. Two, you can consider clinical nursing specialties. Some good examples include neonatal nurse, critical care nurse, nurse anesthetist, pediatric nurse, nurse midwife, and oncology nurse. Your passion can help in determining your specialty.

Three, if you want to support healthcare without being directly involved in caring for the patients, consider advancing to non-clinical roles in hospitals or other facilities dealing with healthcare. For instance, you could become a nurse informationist, public health nurse, nurse educator in the hospital and nursing colleges, healthcare writer, and occupational and environmental nurse. Finally, you could go into self-employment as a consultant, blogger, patients’ advocate, and healthcare center owner among many others. Before you go into self-employment, check the laws governing private practice in healthcare in your state.

Offer Exceptional Service at Your Current Position

Doing the very best in your current position will create a good foundation for your career. Therefore, once you land your first job, treat patients well, be a good team player, respect your bosses, come to work on time, be open to learning new things, have a positive attitude, and go the extra mile where you can. Every day, work on being the best employee. When you receive negative feedback from patients, your colleagues or your boss, make the effort to change. Accepting correction and making a commitment to change will make you a better nurse. Also, it will boost your chances of getting a promotion when an opportunity opens up.

Register for an Advanced Degree

Some career advancements are only possible when you have the right education. For instance, if you want to advance to a neonatal nurse, you will require a Doctor of Nursing Practice Neonatal Nurse Practitioner training. Thankfully, there are a number of online programs such as that allow nurses to further their education as they work.

Hone Your Soft Skills

In addition to your college degrees, you also require soft skills to advance your career or get a promotion. For instance, it would be difficult to rise up to a managerial position when your communication skills are poor. Soft skills can be self-taught through reading or just observing what others are doing. But where you are really struggling, you could take a course or hire a coach to help you out. Some soft skills that can be helpful in nursing include communication, compassion, critical thinking, time management, organization, teamwork, empathy, professionalism, integrity, attention to detail, endurance, management, leadership, confidence, and emotional intelligence.

Read Books, Journals, Newsletters, Study Reports

Reading books and other resources related to your field can teach you some things you didn’t learn in college. Reading also helps you stay up to date with current changes and advancements in the healthcare industry. The knowledge that you get through reading can improve the quality of services you offer, boost your contribution to healthcare planning and it could also help you in knowing the career direction to take.


By networking, you will learn, find inspiration and even discover some opportunities. You should take your time to socialize with people who are in positions you would love to advance to as well as nurses who are at your level. On the one hand, socializing with seniors will give you a glimpse of their responsibilities and what it takes to advance a nursing career. On the other hand, socializing with your peers gives you an opportunity to share your goals and struggles, and also get to know what others are going through. This is helpful in growing your career, and it can also be therapeutic.

The relationships you create with other people could also help in securing a job. For instance, if you have shared with someone your goal to work in a certain hospital, they can inform you when they learn of an opening in that hospital. Through your interactions with others, you can also learn of scholarship opportunities. However, don’t take networking as an opportunity to hand out your CVs to everyone or to self-promote yourself. They key is to create meaningful relationships by taking the time to know each other. Let your interactions with people be so meaningful in a way that even if you don’t get an opportunity through them, your meeting will still count. And other than the face to face meetings in conferences and events, consider social networking through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Get a Coach

Nursing is a rewarding career but at times it can be tough and stressful. There are days when you will feel discouraged or like you are in the wrong field. Other times it can be tough to determine the direction you want your career to take. If you find yourself in such a situation, consider hiring a coach. A coach can help you in identifying what you really want and what you should do to get there. Coaches can help in navigating tough decisions and also give you the support you need to take the big steps. Look into mentorship also.

Become a Mentor

As you grow and gain experience, consider becoming a mentor to someone who is new in nursing or students who are aspiring to be nurses. As you help others to become better nurses, you also improve. Another benefit of being a mentor is that your soft skills such as communication, confidence, leadership, and management can improve as you work with individuals and teams. Also, making an impact on younger lives creates a sense of fulfillment. Finally, your mentorship can grow your CV and give you better chances of getting a promotion or securing another job.

Volunteer at Work

Be willing to take up extra work at the office even when it doesn’t come with extra pay. Also, don’t limit your volunteering to jobs that fall under the nursing scope only. You can do records, event planning, and evaluations among many others. Through volunteering, you will learn a lot of things that can be helpful in growing your career. Also, your willingness to take up extra projects could earn you a promotion, recommendation or even a scholarship.

Volunteer at Work

Be willing to take up extra work at the office even when it doesn’t come with extra pay. Also, don’t limit your volunteering to jobs that fall under the nursing scope only. You can do records, event planning, and evaluations among many others. Through volunteering, you will learn a lot of things that can be helpful in growing your career. Also, your willingness to take up extra projects could earn you a promotion, recommendation or even a scholarship.

Ask for a Promotion

As long as you have the skills, and there is an open opportunity at the next level, consider asking your boss for a promotion. Let your boss know about your goals and why you are interested in moving to another level or to a different department. When you ask, be prepared to get either a yes or a no. If you get a no, don’t be discouraged or angry at your boss. He or she is not obligated to give you the promotion. Inquire why your request was rejected and if it has something to do with your qualifications, start working on the areas pointed out.

Look for Opportunities outside Your Workplace

If your current employer doesn’t have the opportunity you need to advance your career, start looking for opportunities elsewhere. Keep working your current job until you find another opportunity. If you are moving to self-employment, consider running your own private practice part-time for a few months before you quit your job.

When advancing your career in nursing, there are two key things you should remember. One, don’t take up too much that you end up stressed and exhausted. Sign up for another degree when you are sure you will have enough time to study and rest. Also, don’t take up so many volunteer opportunities that you are not left with enough time to socialize and study. A work-life balance is very important for your health and well-being. Too much work will wear you out and affect your productivity. And when you don’t play your part well, you will affect the performance of other employees in your team. Take breaks when you feel tired and when you feel stressed, seek help. Two, don’t compromise your integrity and relationships with others for the sake of your ambition.

As you work to stand out, don’t pull other nurses down. Don’t take credit that doesn’t belong to you or pass the blame to someone else for your mistakes. Strong professionals build each other up. If another nurse is struggling, help them out and grow together. Your days at the office will be better when everyone is doing well. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work harder on your own goals. Work on them but do it without stepping on other peoples’ toes.

Thanks to Zaklina

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