Planning a Nursing Career through the Long and Short Haul
Determining to pursue a career in nursing may be the easiest decision you make in life. As you may have been told, nurses are in great demand! There are also many types and thresholds where an individual can “get their feet wet” while deciding which type of healthcare fits their basic needs.
Do you need an immediate flow of revenue? It may be more important to start with technical skills and a paycheck, while keeping an additional scholarly goal in the back of your mind. If you have read the book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey, it’s a good idea to begin with a conclusion in mind, e.g., do you want to become a CNS or an NP? If so, you should be keeping an eye on the goal, while working your way towards that academic mark slowly.
The tricky part about nursing, though, is that trends change, and demands for different types of academic levels fluctuate as well.
At one point in my career, I wanted to become a CNS (I was a diploma nurse working in a small community hospital ICU, and becoming a CNS seemed an appropriate goal at the time). When I was ready to sign on the dotted line, CNS nursing preparation was fading in popularity, and additionally, the nursing faculty no longer held a critical care curricula due to lack of demand (only 4 applicants that year), and NP/PA programs were being pushed like hotcakes. So, as you have probably guessed, I enrolled in the NP program instead.
When I graduated and passed the board exam, I was the only NP rounding at the hospital where I was on staff. All the physicians that had “physician-extenders” were used to the PA role, and consequently they were unsure of the difference in roles. It was rewarding to see that way of thinking evolve into acceptance over the next several years.
Unfortunately, during that time frame, I also saw several NPs lose positions as they were not able to negotiate expectations with physicians that were unfamiliar with their roles. They needed more time to demonstrate that they could flesh out nursing aspects of the role in addition to the ins and outs of # of patients/day. It was unfortunate that they were often viewed as a return on investment similar to adding another physician as opposed to adding the function of a nurse. Nurses can do so much more as far as teaching, motivating, counseling, and listening/quelling the concerns of patients.
Nurses learn to make a hard-right turn in their careers when it’s called for as well. We may plan with a conclusion in mind, but we don’t lose sight of the changing nature of healthcare. At times, it is necessary to think on our feet when healthcare dollars are tight, and mergers are around every corner. Maybe the hospital needs a nurse to run the simulation lab for orientation. It might not have been on our immediate agenda to learn simulation, but if it’s a need, and we can acquire it, excellent. Perhaps we excel at central lines or wound care. When an opportunity for specialization arises, savvy nurses jump at the chance to become valuable. Do we enjoy reading papers or helping students with self-evaluations? That could be an opportunity to initiate a committee or mentoring program.
I found so many loves in nursing along the way, I was always adding a notch or two to my long-range “plan.” I loved ethics, research, pain management, specialty equipment, people, reading manuscripts, more people (patients), meeting new nurses, did I say people????
I’m sorry, but I think you get the idea. Nursing is far from boring. You can be successful in nursing by planning for either the long, or the short haul of it. I find nurses who have been doing the same thing for forty years and they LOVE it. You will also find nurses who have done a bit of everything for forty years and they LOVE it as well. The idea is not to get stuck. Begin with a plan and stay flexible, keep your eyes and mind open along the way. Nursing is fluid and flexible, constantly changing, and more of a business than in the years I started. Pick a plan, be creative, and hang on!
I think you will love it.