10 things I wish I’d known early in my nursing career

June 7, 2019

JoAnna Fairley, PhD, Capella University School of Nursing and Health Sciences faculty member, has learned a lot in her career. At a recent National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) event, she shared 10 things she wishes she had known at the start of her nursing career.

1. Collaborate

Sometimes nurses are hesitant to work with other disciplines. Oftentimes, nurses may choose to try and handle a situation by themselves. However, all disciplines can offer ideas to assist the nursing profession as well as benefit patient care. Collaboration can have a positive and direct influence on quality of care in a variety of health care settings.

2. Be resilient

In the field of nursing, change happens daily. You may be moved to a different floor, or be forced to work with a different type of patient. It’s important to be agile, even in the face of challenges, and keep a positive attitude. Nurse leaders often look for nurses who are flexible. It signals that you can be counted on to take on new and different opportunities in the organization.

3. Explore nursing

It’s easy to stay in your lane without exploring more of the field. Do what you can to learn about each aspect of this multi-faceted career. For instance, find out how finance or health technology connects to nursing. Stay current on nursing trends through blogs and professional organizations. You might be surprised at the variety of opportunities you can find within your nursing career.

4. Learn the business of health care

At the start of my career, I worked as a floor nurse at a hospital and went many years without getting a raise. I saw new hospital buildings being built and didn’t understand why the hospital could afford to expand, but not give me a higher salary. My nurse manager explained to me that the nursing budget was different from the hospital budget. That was my first introduction to the business of health care and a realization that understanding the business aspects of nursing was important to my career development.

5. Pay attention to political nursing issues

Learning more about nursing politics will open your mind to the professional challenge’s nurses face. As a nurse you should learn about legislation and regulations.  Keep up to date on political changes in the field. If you don’t know, find out about how new policies impact change by attending legislative meetings, conferences and webinars that deal with political issues concerning the nursing profession.

6. Get a mentor

I believe every nurse needs to have a mentor, but especially young nurses. It is important to have someone you can open up to. I found my mentors through observation. I looked at them and thought, “I want to be just like them someday.” It’s not about who has the most experience; it’s about the mentor that can provide the best experience to a mentee. Seek out someone approachable and who inspires you to be the best you can be.

7. Find opportunities for professional development

Always make sure you have opportunities for professional development, like attending conferences or joining a professional organization. Research is so important, but opportunities to get involved are often not obvious. The only way to learn is to network and ask questions. When you use certain methods and strategies to deliver best practices to patients, the outcomes are usually very positive. So why not invest in best practices.

8. Seek community involvement

Get outside the walls of the hospital. What’s happening in the community is where you can pick up new ideas and bring that knowledge back to your organization. Volunteering with diverse populations in the community will expand your knowledge and skills in dealing with different paatient populations in your healthcare setting.

9. Invest in continuing education

No matter your age, now is the time to invest in expanding your knowledge and career. Nursing is usually a lifelong career, and longevity is very important. To avoid stagnation in your career it’s important to invest in continuing education.

10. Further your education

There are now so many avenues a nurse can take, but you can’t get those positions unless you have an advanced education, certifications or both. Growing professions in nursing often require an advanced degree. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a nurse for 20 years; you still need to advance your education to get ahead in your career.

Explore Capella’s online nursing programs.

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