Your nursing career is something incredibly personal to you. It can shift and change alongside your interests or desire for curiosity, or adjust based on industry trends and what is required from the role in the here and now. With healthcare evolving rapidly due to technological advancements and societal needs, this constant tussle and balancing act can feel incredibly stressful. It may sometimes feel easier just to stay in place and fight against change — even though we all know, change is inevitable. Today’s article will guide nurses struggling to take that next step forward, equipping you to navigate the ever-changing landscape of healthcare.
Step 1. Accept that change is inevitable
“Change is the only constant in life.”
It is easy to believe that healthcare is a relatively stagnant industry, especially when you are in the thick of day-to-day work and routine. But no matter your setting, from the high-pressure environment within an Emergency Department to the more predictable routine of aged care, change is afoot.
Consider the ongoing shifts in protocol, regulation, and technology around you. By keeping up-to-date and aware through reliable news sources, podcasts you will see that alongside the changes, boundless opportunities are inevitably opening up. These developments are integral to your field, especially in a landscape marked by corporate mergers, downsizing, understaffing, and other issues that move nurses from one position or facility to another.
Also recognise that even the job search process evolves with time. Competition for certain roles can be increasingly fierce, and certifications and advanced degrees have become highly prized, even required. Staying aware of these changes is vital. Otherwise, those who don’t adapt to the shifting landscape can easily get left behind.
Step 2: Identify the change you want
Reflect on your journey
Take a moment to look inward. Remember the wide-eyed nursing student you once were and compare that to the professional you are now. Write a letter to your younger self, detailing the triumphs, setbacks, and wisdom you've gained. How would you guide that young nurse? Jot down the contrasts between who you were then, and who you are now.
And then, write a letter to your future self. What do you admire about them? Who do you imagine them to be, both personally and professionally? Where do they live? From there, you can identify the gaps that need to be filled for you to reach that future.
Plan your educational goals
From there you can begin planning what further education you may want to undertake. Whether formal or informal, workplace-oriented training, these educational steps are more than a checkbox; they’re your path towards the nurse you want to be. Plan realistically, but also ambitiously.
Networking and mentorship opportunities
Have you considered reaching out to a more senior nurse to understand how they reached where they are? Or have you tried mentoring a junior nurse yourself? These can potentially show you a path you never knew existed. Networking and other professional development events will also broaden your understanding of the industry and help you realise how large the world of nursing actually is. They can also help you identify career role models, who you can get in touch with and learn from.
Step 3: Initiate the change
Career change and progress is not like flicking a switch. It is gradual and requires sustained effort.
If you are ready to change your career path there will be a defining moment. It might be enrolling in a course, talking to your manager about opportunities, or reaching out to your network. If you’ve done that, congratulations!
Change can be scary, but be proud of what you're initiating. Recognise common obstacles like fear or inertia and find support structures to help you overcome them. The people and network you’ve built around you can be a strong foundation to keep your momentum going.
Nurses change the world by helping the people around them. Changing yourself empowers you to flourish personally and professionally, and it enables you to provide better care and create a better future of healthcare.
Embracing change is more than a professional necessity; it’s a pathway to personal growth and fulfilment. By recognising the inevitability of change, identifying the direction you want to take, and taking concrete steps to initiate that change, you can align your career with your aspirations. Whether through education, networking, or mentorship, the tools are at your disposal to shape your future in nursing. Seize them with both hands, and move forward with confidence.
If you’d like to read more around making decisions for your career, you can find our article on Tiedeman’s Decision-Making Model which may be of further use.