JoAnna Fairley, PhD Capella University nursing faculty member

JoAnna Fairley, PhD, 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 together with other disciplines, or think they can handle a situation by themselves. All disciplines can offer ideas to help the profession and benefit patient care. Collaboration can have a positive and direct influence on care quality.


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 people 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 diversity of opportunities you can find within a 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 nurse politics will open your mind to the professional challenges nurses face. You need to know about legislation and regulations, and keep up to date on political changes in the field. If you don’t know, ask questions about how new policies affect change.


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 can inspire you to advance in your career.


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 use it?


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 empathy and skill in handling diverse patient populations in the hospital.


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 your work becoming stagnant, it’s important to invest in continuing education. Whether it’s simply watching a webinar or pursuing CE credit, continuing to learn will always help advance your career.


10. Further your education.

This is a huge one because of the Affordable Care Act. There are now so many avenues a nurse can take, but you can’t get those positions unless you have an advanced education. Growing professions like nurse informatics, nurse education, and advanced practice nursing require an advanced degree. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a nurse for 20 years; you still need an education to get ahead.


Explore Capella’s online nursing programs, from individual courses and certificates to doctoral degrees.


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