Own your nursing career

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Excerpt

At a recent nursing conference, a group of colleagues from around the country and I had a thought-provoking lunch conversation about two distinctly different ways that nurses can define their nursing career. We talked about how some nurses seem to view themselves only as employees of their healthcare institution and consider their employer's expectations to be their sole professional set point. Though they might meet essential job requirements, these individuals don't necessarily see the need for education or development beyond what's provided or mandated by their employer. Even the bare minimum in-service education and ongoing competency activities may be perceived as onerous and a chore to maintain.
At the other end of the spectrum are nurses who actively seek ways to further develop professionally. They critically assess their own needs and select personal career goals or milestones to achieve. These nurses take ownership of their growth and have a career vision that isn't purely employer-defined. They read healthcare-related literature, pursue continuing education, become certified, and join professional organizations. They're eager for new knowledge to improve their skill base. Even if they're only able to take advantage of employer-offered education due to personal life circumstances, they fully engage to acquire and apply their learning. In short, they take their professional obligation to remain current and competent to heart, and the desire to consistently improve is woven into the fabric of their nursing practice.
What can we do as a profession to inspire nurses to own their careers and become their personal best? Mentoring is essential, beginning in nursing school and continuing as nurses of all experience levels engage in work life. If you're in a formal or informal mentor relationship, offer students and colleagues specific, practical ideas for career enhancement and encourage them to expand their horizons. Examples include inviting a colleague to attend a professional organization meeting, passing along an article or journal, organizing a journal club to discuss the latest evidence about a topic of interest, and helping a nurse to develop an educational presentation or write a paper for publication.
If your own career needs a booster shot, consider making a New Year's resolution to take advantage of any or all of these opportunities.
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