advance-your-nursing career

Advancing Your Nursing Career: Things You Can Do

Nurses are in very high demand these days, with staffing shortages across the country causing problems across the healthcare industry. Although this situation has created a good deal of stress for nurses, it also offers a wealth of opportunities. Read on to find out about some of the ways that today’s nurses are finding both personal enrichment and career growth.

Exploring Educational Options

One of the most obvious ways to advance your nursing career is to return to school. For registered nurses (RNs) who hold only associate degrees, that means obtaining a BSN, but that’s not the final step in a nurse’s potential course of education, either. Nurses who complete undergraduate degrees can go on to pursue master’s or even doctorate programs.

RN to BSN Programs

For current RNs who want to take the next step in furthering their education, finding a degree completion program can be the best option. These courses allow currently employed RNs to obtain degrees entirely online, making it easier to continue working while attending school.

Post-Graduate Programs

Post-graduate MSN degrees offer nurses a greater range of opportunities. There are different kinds of MSN programs, so it’s best for students to have an idea of where they want to take their careers after school before they apply. Most programs offer tracks to train not just future APRNs, but also nurse educators and administrators.

Post-Master’s Programs

DPN degrees are usually offered as post-masters programs. Students choose from either ANP or executive leadership tracks depending on whether they want to continue in clinical practice. Some nurses eventually go on to achieve Ph.D. in Nursing degrees, which represent the highest level of education that they can obtain. These programs are very science-based and are best reserved for nurses drawn toward medical research rather than clinical practice.

Understanding Specialization Certifications

Nursing is one of the rare healthcare fields that allow people to change specializations throughout their careers. Becoming certified in one or more specialties through a reputable program is a good way for nurses to advance their careers without having to go back to school. Examples of nursing specializations for practicing RNs include:

  •  Pediatric critical care

Adult critical care

Progressive care



Cardiac surgery

And others

Certification programs also exist for people who want to become nurse managers, administrators, or executives.

Participation in Professional Nursing Organizations

Joining a professional organization offers opportunities for nurses to make new contacts and connections. There are over 100 national nursing organizations out there, many of which offer career resources to their members. Nurses that participate in professional organizations may also receive conference invitations and discounts on the continuing advantage of education courses.

Some professional nursing organizations also help members find formal mentors. Whether they want to advance their clinical careers or change tracks towards becoming a nurse manager, administrator, or educator, having an experienced mentor will make the process easier. In some cases, employers also offer formal mentoring programs, but even an informal arrangement with a more experienced nurse can be helpful.

Start Exploring Options

The next step for RNs depends on their current level of education and how they envision their careers progressing. For those who currently hold only ADs, attending a BSN program is an obvious first step. Otherwise, consider the wealth of options available and note that for clinical practice nurses, certification programs and specializations can be just as helpful as post-graduate degrees.

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