How to Build a Successful Nursing Career Plan

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

Nursing is a massive industry and what you could potentially do with a background in nursing goes so much further than the hospital doors. You can work almost anywhere, and with more opportunities to specialize than ever before, you can truly create a thriving career that lets you focus on who you want to help and what area of medicine and healthcare you want to focus on. 

You can work in healthcare or outside of it. No matter where you go, just remember that you are doing good work. There are people who need your services wherever you go, and today there are more opportunities to help you customize your career as you see fit. 

You might have heard about the large nursing shortage that is being experienced. This means that becoming a nurse today won’t just be a great career move; it will also mean that you can play a big part in helping your community. 

When you first dip your toe into nursing, you’ll start to realize just how big of an industry it is. Don’t feel intimidated. This guide will help you understand your options and how you can create a nursing career plan that will guide you through to your goals:  

What Personal Responsibilities Do You Have? 

One of the most important things to consider is your personal responsibilities. These responsibilities will directly impact how much time and energy you have to commit to a degree. For those who are raising children or who are full-time carers for a loved one, for example, you may be better off committing to a part-time degree just so that you don’t overload yourself. 

If you have the space, time, and freedom to commit to a degree full-time, however, then know this is going to be the best way to get started in nursing. This is particularly true if you already have a bachelor’s degree and can fast-track through your BSN with an accelerated option. 

Accelerated degrees are typically intensive, so they are not for everyone. 

There is no right or wrong approach when it comes to your BSN. You could even earn the associate’s degree and then take on a part-time BSN to finish up the credits that will allow you to progress to the next stage. 

All that matters is that your education works with your needs. 

How to Get the Most Out of Being an RN 

Only once you have passed the NCLEX exam can you then start to apply for RN roles. Once you have a job, however, you will not want to become complacent. Chances are you won’t fall into your dream position – and that’s okay! Changing roles, working on different teams and in different units; not only does this help your career, but it can also help you understand more about what you want out of it.

For some, you may want to transition out of acute care. For others, they may want to stay on the front lines and specialize further. There are so many different roles in nursing, and all of them are important. 

By diversifying what you do, you’ll learn more about yourself and what you want out of your career, and you will also network! 

How to Network as a Nurse 

Though there is a nursing shortage, that means there are more open nursing positions than available staff, but that does not mean you can forgo networking. Networking is how you will increase the likelihood of getting into unique or rare roles. It’s also how you’ll stay abreast of your options! 

By meeting people, staying in touch, and being prepared to help out, you keep your options open. Sometimes those options aren’t something you would pick for yourself, and that’s fine. 

Nursing is a very social role, so you want to be someone that can be relied on. Though who you meet is obviously going to play a huge part in your efforts, don’t stop there. You will also want to commit to further education in the form of workshops or conferences. 

These are great places to stay up-to-date on the latest news, trends, and recommendations. If your state requires that you commit to ongoing training in order to renew your license, then this is also going to help with that. 

Most of all, however, putting yourself out there by furthering your training is a great way to network outside of your hospital or area. 

How to Choose the Right Specialization 

There will come a time when you will want to further your career. Keep in mind, however, that there are many ways to do this, and you don’t need to become an APRN to do it. 

You could, for example, train to become a leader or administrator. If you want to continue to work directly with patients, however, you will need to select the right MSN program. 

There are many options out there, and some even bundle degrees together. For example, you could apply for a BSN in DNP program. This isn’t actually longer, but it does bundle your efforts in one go. 

It can feel daunting with so many options. The good news is that if you have worked in many different departments and networked, once you reach this point, you should have a clear idea of what you want out of your career. 

Do your due diligence before you commit. This means having a conversation with the admissions team and even having a chat with someone in the role you are considering. 

You will also want to look up what rights and privileges these roles have in your state. FNPs in some states can practice independently and can’t in others. 

What Happens if I Choose Wrong? 

It can feel incredibly daunting to specialize in your skills. There are so many different areas of healthcare to choose from, and deciding on just one path means that you may make the wrong choice. You may not like the field you specialize in, or alternatively may want to move out of it and focus on something different later on. We are all in flux, and our needs and priorities do change. 

The good news is that if any of those situations happen to you, it’s easy to expand your skill set. Rather than taking on another MSN, simply earn a post-graduate certificate. These certificates let you take on the extra credits and build off your existing MSN. 

If you are currently working as a family nurse practitioner, for example, but have realized the community you serve is disproportionately older, then you may want to expand your focus to include adult gerontology. You can start and finish the said certificate in just four semesters and then go on to take the state exam. Not only that, but you can also work while completing the online AGANCP post-master’s certificate, allowing you to continue to help your community and fund your additional training all at once. 

It is also important to remember that expanding your skillset does not negate any of the older ones. You will simply be adding to your repertoire. 

How to Transition Out of Healthcare 

There are many reasons why nurses may want to transition out of healthcare, or at the very least, out of hospital work. Hospitals are fast-paced and high-stress, so if you are starting to slow down or have new responsibilities like a family to take care of, it’s natural to want to take a step back to evaluate your options. 

The good news is that you have a lot of options. 

One of the most popular options is to transition into education. One of the biggest hiccups in getting more nurses out there is a lack of educators. By transitioning into nurse education, you can help improve the next generation. 

Your options don’t stop there. 

You can also work as a nurse in unique settings. You can work on the health and safety team, for example, on a movie set or at a music concert. Stunts, crowds, and health concerns mean that having healthcare professionals on site isn’t just a good idea. It’s a legal requirement. 

You can also work as part of the health team in remote research stations. Once again, healthcare workers are essential when employees do not have fast access to a hospital or doctor. This means you could potentially work as a nurse at a research station in Antarctica

When it comes to these unique roles, it is important to keep in mind that they are rare. Only a few people are needed to fill the spots, which can make them very competitive. Networking is going to be your best friend here. You may also want to look to see if there are any agencies that you can work for at the start. 

Working privately is also an option. Once again, however, networking and, in this case, marketing are going to play a big role. In short, you have options! In many cases, you will need to persevere and think outside the box, but with so many unique opportunities and a growing need for nurses everywhere, you have great chances.

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