The newly minted professional Registered Nurse faces a vast landscape of career opportunities. Whether considering a career in nursing, starting a career, or leading/mentoring a professional nurse, it is important to understand how to optimize the career pathway.
As with all careers, one should recognize what is personally fulfilling, and set short and long-term goals. A variety of factors should be considered: pay, autonomy, growth potential, and work/life balance just to name a few. Nurses have a variety of choices to maximize or minimize options to suit a particular need.
The major levers that can be pulled revolve around education, experience, and networking.
The professional nurse will have a fundamental education that focuses on patient care. It is also fair to expect that the nurse will have been exposed to several clinical environments: medical/surgical, intensive care, psychiatric, public health, etc.
Education can significantly impact a nursing career. Pathways in advanced practice, leadership, business, and others can provide dramatic course changes to the otherwise traditional nursing role. Advanced education is like a sledgehammer, impacting a great amount of change but not providing much detail on the day-to-day practice. Formal education has the potential for the greatest impact with a relatively short time investment. Make certain that this decision is well thought out, well researched, and consider consulting with others who have already pursued the course being considered.
Most professional nurses will not pursue advanced or alternative education. Education is not always required to find the nursing career that meets the needs of the individual.