Most nurses want to be described as having good decision-making skills, being technically competent, and having strong ethical character when caring for patients. Research evidence shows that the most favored qualities to facilitate knowledge and technical competence are trustworthiness, caring, humility, and effective communication skills. Nurses flourish in their positions when the practice environment is based on mutual trust, respect, and collaboration. The opportunities for professional development for nurses who are knowledgeable, skillful, and have effective interpersonal relationships are numerous.
Nursing is the largest healthcare profession, projected to have the greatest number of new positions annually through 2012.1 Gaining valuable clinical practice experience, earning continuing-education units, and pursuing certification in a specialty area are important components of professional development. The opportunities for practical nurses to become RNs are numerous through associate degree and baccalaureate degree programs. RNs with a diploma or associate's degree in nursing will need to earn at least a baccalaureate degree or higher for leadership positions. RNs who want to be nurse practitioners will need to enroll in a graduate program that offers the doctor of nursing practice degree. Nurses who aspire to be educators in a community college or university will need to earn a minimum of a master's of science in nursing for entry-level positions and a doctor of philosophy degree in nursing or a closely related discipline to earn tenure and professorial rank.
Developing career goals is one of the most important activities that an individual can do to enhance professional development and ensure upward mobility in the nursing profession. It's important to consider these points when developing goals:
- Identify your passions and interests.
- Develop a broad career goal based on your education, skills, abilities, and life experiences.
- Develop short-term goals. These goals will allow you to pursue your career aspirations gradually without becoming overwhelmed with the long-term goal.
- Don't be discouraged if life situations get in the way of attaining your goals. Take a break and then get back on the career ladder as soon as possible.
- Stay current on what's happening in the nursing profession.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive influences in your life.
- Present yourself as a professional role model for nursing who puts people first.
- Develop a résumé that showcases your talents.
Professional development is a lifelong process. Enjoy the journey!
1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook, 2010–11 edition: Registered nurses