High-Level Nurse Career Development


Published: 28 January 2019

When nurses navigate their nursing career journey, there are many choices to be made as that process develops. While nurses can move the career needle on their own, the organisations that employ them can also play a large part in nurses’ professional success if they choose to invest in their nurses in such a prudent manner. Between a nurse and her or his employer, much can be done to develop that nurse’s abilities and knowledge if the will exists to do so. It’s this goal of achieving high-level nursing career development that can benefit all concerned, including healthcare facilities, nurses, and the patients at the heart of care delivery.

Nurse Career Development and Personal Growth

For nurses desiring rich career development, there is plenty of grist for that mill. First, the earnest nurse can seek out opportunities to learn new skills, accumulate knowledge, and further nurture the nurse’s mind. Activities for achieving such may include, but not be limited to:
  • Attending professional conferences, workshops, and seminars;
  • Learning important new clinical skills;
  • Listening to podcasts focused on careers and self-development;
  • Seeking certification in their particular specialty area;
  • Reading related articles and blog posts;
  • Developing “soft” skills in emotional and relational intelligence, empathy and compassion, communication, leadership, etc.;
  • Spending time on right-brained creative activities like drawing, painting, photography, writing, playing or listening to music, or looking at inspiring art;
  • Networking with like-minded professionals with the goal of career advancement, learning from others, creating a robust professional network, and benefitting from the intelligence and insights of knowledgeable colleagues;
  • Challenging one’s self to learn new things, such as becoming an EMR super-user, volunteering for a workplace committee, or getting involved in research or other initiatives; and
  • Practicing excellent self-care.

Organisation-Led Nurse Development

Savvy, forward-thinking healthcare organisations recognise that helping nurses to develop professionally can feed the organization in myriad ways. First and foremost, nurses who feel cared for and invested in by their employer are more likely to stick around. Onboarding new nurses is costly, so retaining nurses and preventing high levels of attrition is simply a smart business strategy that also contributes to a positive work environment and corporate culture. Healthcare organisations can keep their leadership pipeline filled by identifying key nurses and developing their leadership abilities over time through mentoring and training. Forward-thinking healthcare institutions know that developing the next generation of leaders is crucial to long-term success and viability. Speaking of mentoring, whether a nurse is being groomed for leadership is beside the point. High-level nurse career development can be supported through evidence-based mentoring programs and practices that empower nurses to become the clinicians, researchers, or educators they’ve always longed to be. Executives who think that developing nurses’ talents will lead to them moving on to greener pastures are missing the point. Admittedly, some nurse employees will undoubtedly leave for other opportunities, and that is mostly beyond our control. However, when employees are cared for, supported, listened to, and empowered, this can lead to strong ties of loyalty and employee longevity. Nurse retention is a veritable treasure trove of individual and collective talent and accomplishment.

Empowered Nurses = Healthy Organisations

Career development does not happen in a vacuum, and nurses’ own career development and the support of their employers are not mutually exclusive. Since nurses are the backbone and lifeblood of any healthcare system or facility, they must be treated as such. Positive workplace culture, access to career development strategies, and organisational support all contribute to a healthy leadership pipeline. Meanwhile, nurses who are consistently moving forward and bettering themselves through learning and personal/professional growth are likely to stay the course in an institution where they feel valued. High-level nurse career development is a no-brainer for those who recognise its importance. And in the 21st century, nurtured nurses interested in their own development are a goldmine of professionalism and organisational success.  

Read more from Keith Carlson: Listening to Staff: A Nurse Leader's Call to Arms


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Keith Carlson View profile
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at www.nursekeith.com and Digital Doorway.