I've had many recent conversations with colleagues about nursing professional development and career advancement. Invariably, we arrive at a common sticking point: talented nurses who were encouraged to engage in experiences or projects that would contribute to their professional growth but chose to opt out because there was no significant monetary incentive. I'm referring to opportunities such as participation in professional organizations, taking on volunteer activities, achieving extra certifications, going back to school, and writing for publication, to name a few.
I certainly respect that doing one's job may be all that's humanly possible for individuals with complex family or health issues. We obviously value nurses who come to work, competently handle the day-to-day challenges, and go home at the end of the shift. However, to nurses who have both the capacity and desire for career development, yet have an aversion to any extra work that carves into personal time, I'll say this: you just might want to reconsider your mindset.
When I think back on my own career, some of the richest experiences stemmed from volunteer and professional activities for which I never expected to be paid. What immediately come to mind are the friendships, the knowledge and skills, the networks and connections with people, and the opportunities that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. One experience often paves the way for others as ability, expertise, and character are honed.
Taking on new endeavors requires accountability, a willingness to learn, the capacity to finish what is started, and the acceptance that there may not be immediate, if any, financial gain.
There's value in going the extra mile if the opportunities are connected to personal or career goals—but how can you add another activity to an already busy life? Take stock of how you spend your time and consider ways to become more efficient. When possible, give up things that bog you down and don't add value. Be willing to move out of your personal comfort zone. Set realistic priorities and avoid procrastination. At the same time, strive to live a balanced life.
Remember that rewards aren't always immediate. Sometimes you have to broaden your definition of reward beyond the monetary to find your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.