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Top tips for advancing the nursing profession and your career


iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

You’ve finally graduated and landed your first job. Things are going well…but now what? Do you choose a speciality, look into jobs at other hospitals, go for another degree? It’s all up to you–which can be freeing or nerve-racking, depending on how you look at it!

Your choices will help make up what kind of career you ultimately have, and in some ways will affect the greater career of nursing at large. As Brittney from The Nerdy Nurse says, “the future of nursing and your personal nursing career is in your hands.”

Check out some of her inspiring tips for motivation and incentive as you move forward in your own career path!


The first step to accomplishing any goal is having motivation. What motivates people to complete a task determines the quality of the harvest they will reap. Determine what your motivation for wanting to advance your nursing career is and that will determine the success you will have. Take a moment to look at where you are in your nursing career. 

Are you completely happy? 

If yes, I humbly ask you to not continue to read the rest of this post. Happiness in life is a joy often pushed aside, and I encourage you to take full advantage of every opportunity for it that presents itself. If no, please continue.

Why do you want to advance your nursing career? What will it do for you? What will it help you do for others? Will it make you happy? How will it affect your family? Will it change you? Will it make you better? Do want to something more?

Answer these questions. Think seriously about the answers. Critical thinking is not a new idea to nurses, however, it seems that nurses often do not apply these skills to their own lives and goals. There is no set path for anyone. Whether you are an RN, LPN, student nurse, CNA, APN, BSN, MSN, ADN, CRNA, and so on, the next step in your career is yours to take and yours alone. 

Take a minute, breathe, and think. 


Depending on your current level of education, there are a variety of options to further it. As nurses, we owe it to our patients to stay informed on current information, new technologies, and policies. Many states require CEs. In Georgia, where I happen to reside, they do not. However, there are a multitude of resources that are available to you online to gain continuing education credits, as well as a wealth of reputable articles that can expand your practical knowledge and critical thinking. 

Remember, we must never stop learning. A nurse who knows everything is a very dangerous nurse. This is a very handy list of nursing credentials that has various certifications, degrees and licensees listed. It is really interesting to see just how many things nurses do! We certainly have a lot of specialties. Of course, advancing your career may also require additional college time. But don’t fret, the hard part is really over, and it’s nothing like the hoops of nursing school. The majority of programs offered are available mostly only, may or may not require clinical time and give a variety of options.

Some of the frameworks available include:

  • LPN – ADN, LPN – BSN
  • ADN – BSN,  ADN –MSN,  ADN – APN
  • as well as specialist tracts in various areas including: NP, CRNA, midwife, etc.

Keep in mind also, that financial aid is almost always available, and many employers offer tuition reimbursement. Most facilities want you to continue your education as it makes you a better nurse and also looks extremely good on all those fancy reports they generate.

Cheerlead for your profession

We all know that there are many nursing issues, however, we need to be advocates for our profession. If we want to be seen as professionals, we have to see ourselves as professionals. Speak up and tell people what you do. Don’t just focus on the caring and emotional aspects of nursing, but speak about about we use our minds to solve problems, use evidence in our practice, and maintain personal standards with little to no direct supervision. 

If you notice a problem, don’t ignore it. But also, don’t be a complainer. Do what you do for your patients, think critically and solve the problem! If you are going to voice your opinion about an issue, and you should, try to offer solutions and be a medium for change.

Get up and put on your nursing shoes and tell yourself that today will be a good day. Tell yourself that your patients will receive the best care possible. Tell yourself that you will be a resource to your peers and a leader in your field and motivate positive change and excellence in nursing. Then do it!


Who you know is important. Whether it be a casual smile in the hallway and a handshake to your C.E.O, you never know when you may be in competition for advancement and that simple smile and handshake can make the difference. This doesn’t mean go out and “brownnose” everyone in management; this means make yourself approachable and be outgoing to those who can make or break you in your profession. It is common sense, really, but so many underestimate the power of a simple introduction, smile and an offer to help facilitate your organization’s goals. We all have stress in our lives, and even the head honchos appreciate being told that help is available to them. They may remember those few words and positive attitude and it may mean the difference between getting where you want to go and staying where you are.


Integrity is often not stressed in nursing. This is our biggest asset. I am not talking about how nurses are constantly ranked as the most trustworthy profession. This is part of it, as honesty and ethics play a large role in maintain integrity. I am talking about being true to yourself, your standards, the needs of your family, the rights of your peers, the rights of your patients and not making sacrifices that aren’t needed or beneficial.

Ultimately, you have to sleep at night, eventually. I implore you to make decisions and take actions with the goal of advancing yourself and nursing without stepping on the toes of others. Egos are a different story, though; step on as many of those as you want.

Have respect for those around you who are happy in what they do, but be a resource to them if they decide they may want more. Nurture students to be the best nurses they can be. Help them see that not everyday is a bad day, and one day they will be a time that they get everything done they wanted to, the way they wanted, in the time they wanted to. We’re all in this together, after all.

No one nurse can nurse the world. However, one nurse, one idea, one group, one movement at a time, change change the world.

Don’t cut corners. Together we can change the world.

To read the rest of this Nerdy Nurse column, including more inspiring tips for moving your career forward, head on over to the blog post. Then, in the comments below, tell us your own advice for advancing your career and your career field.

The Nerdy Nurse
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at

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