Advancing Your Nursing Career: 2020 and Beyond
Once qualified, a Registered Nurse has a plethora of options regarding where they work, the patients they care for, and the medical specialty they pursue. Because nursing is such a varied profession, very few nurses choose to work in the same place or at the same level for their entire career.
There are several reasons why a nurse might want to adjust their career path. For example, some might be looking to reduce the physical demand on their body as they age and could take a teaching position. Others might decide that they have accomplished all they can as a Registered Nurse and want to get promoted to a more senior position or challenge themselves with a managerial or administrative role.
Moving a nursing career forward can mean different things to different people. This guide will still outline how to keep your education, experience, and skill level on an upward trajectory in 2020 and beyond.
Potential nursing career opportunities
You may feel that it is time to advance in your nursing career, but before you can take steps to make this happen, you need to decide what it is you want to achieve in your career. You may have a clear idea of exactly where you want to be at the end of your career, but you might only have a plan for the next 5-10 years. Either way, it is time to consider your motivation and where your skills would be best applied.
When you have identified the career path you would like to pursue, you can determine which qualifications and experience you will need to make it happen. Here are some possible career paths a Registered Nurse might want to aspire to.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Nurse practitioners are regarded as the most senior nursing professionals. They often work alongside doctors and, in some states, they hold the same level of responsibility as a doctor. This means they can manage their own private practice, diagnose conditions, and prescribe and deliver treatment. Nurse Practitioners can specialize in a particular field of medicine, e.g., pediatric, geriatric, or psychiatric care, or they can work more generally in a community.
To become a Nurse Practitioner, you will typically need to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, followed by a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice registered nurse who is responsible for managing anesthetic in a wide range of medical settings. Whenever local or general anesthetic is required, a CRNA will decide which drugs to use, how much to give each patient, and monitor vital functions and pain levels throughout the procedure. To become a CRNA, you need to train to a graduate-level (completing a BSN) and then complete advanced clinical training, which adds around 2-3 years on to the average amount of training completed by a nurse. CRNAs are given a high level of responsibility and autonomy, translating into one of the highest potential nursing salaries.
While pediatric nurses work primarily with children and young teenagers, a neonatal nurse cares for newborn babies, infants, and small children. The nature of the role means that neonatal nurses deal with emotional and highly anxious parents, premature babies, vulnerable children, and, at times, children who have suffered life-changing injuries. The role can also involve visiting parents and families in their home to provide support and advice. This requires specialized training and skills, which is why neonatal nurses usually need to have a BSN.
Certified Nurse Midwife
A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Having qualified as a Registered Nurse and completed additional training through a master’s degree, a certified nurse-midwife can care for women during pregnancy, labor, and while the child is an infant. CNMs have more authority than certified midwives, are legally recognized as primary care providers and can prescribe medication in all fifty US states.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
A psychiatric nurse specializes in caring for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness in hospitals, psychiatric institutes, prisons, and any other settings where they are needed. The role involves interacting with people with a range of issues, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia. This can mean that they are required to deal with unorthodox and/or violent behavior. These nurses are trained in psychological therapies and their duties might include administering medication, providing practical care, evaluating patient progress, and providing emotional support and guidance for the patient and their family.
Health Care Education
By teaching and supporting individuals and the community about healthy lifestyle habits, nurses can make a real difference to people’s lives’ longevity and quality. In addition, through the collection and analysis of data, health care educators can identify a community’s needs and take steps to implement a strategy to tackle the issues. Working in health care education enables nurses to use their people skills and their medical knowledge and experience to inspire people around them to lead healthier lives.
Nursing IT and Informatics
If you have an interest in technology, sound IT skills, and a desire to help health care facilities to improve their operations, working in informatics could be ideal for you. Technology is now involved in almost every aspect of modern society, and it has the potential to transform the way we deliver and experience health care. For example, telehealth for family nurse practitioners has become the norm in 2020 as more doctors and nurses are offering consultations via video call to reduce the need for in-person appointments.
If you are looking for a different life pace to nursing but want to put your nursing knowledge and experience to use, a role as a medical sales representative could be worth considering. Medical sales representatives are often out on the road, building business relationships with medical professionals of all types. The role offers a lot of variety as well as high earning potential.
Health Care Consultant
Health care consultants travel around giving different organizations worldwide the advice and tools they need to improve their health care facilities. This role can be a fascinating and varied challenge that makes a real difference in the world and offers a lot of flexibility.
How to advance your education
All nurses should continue to invest in their education to ensure they are up to date with the latest research and best practices in nursing. However, if you have advancement in your mind, the higher and more diverse your education is, the more choice you will have when it comes to choosing a career path, and the greater your earning potential will be. There are numerous specialized certifications and courses which will enable you to pursue a specialist field such as pediatrics, midwifery, or anesthetics.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
It is possible to become a nurse by completing the Diploma in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing. However, these courses are now considered the bare minimum in nursing education, and many employers prefer their nurses to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The Bachelor of Science in Nursing takes approximately four years to complete and prepare students for a Registered Nurse career. The BSN is required if you want to move on to study for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Note: If you have an Associate Degree in Nursing and would like to get your Bachelor of Science, you may complete an online bridge course that would enable you to achieve your BSN in a shorter timeframe.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
For nurses who want to advance their career, the next level is the Master of Science in Nursing degree. This enables you to study for one of the advanced nursing roles, such as a nurse practitioner, certified nurse anesthetist, or certified nurse-midwife (CNM). The MSN takes at least 2 years to complete. It is often possible to complete an MSN online to continue working while you study and often, employers will often pay your tuition fees.
How to advance your career professionally
To ensure you are advancing professionally as well as educationally, find a mentor (i.e., an experienced colleague) in your organization who you can learn from. They will be able to provide advice and guidance on a range of issues and offer insights you cannot get from a book.
If you can volunteer your time or take on more responsibility, do it and show your superiors that you are ready for more. Whether you offer to mentor new recruits, help with paperwork, complete extra credit assignments, or stay late to help the team, all will count in your favor when a promotion is up for grabs.
Join a professional association such as The American Nurses Association so you can attend networking events, establish professional connections, and keep up to date with the latest news in nursing.
While considering your future career path and investing in your education, it is important to remain committed to performing your current role to the best of your ability. Make sure that your ethics and professionalism are unimpeachable. There is always more to be learned in terms of clinical experience and building a strong professional can only be beneficial when you come to apply for a new position.