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How Career Development Helps Nurses Succeed

Education Degree

Professional development is ongoing training throughout a nursing career that can help nurses develop their skills and ensure their patients receive quality care. Registered nurses have many opportunities to advance their careers and move into leadership or specialty roles.

Because nurses are in demand in many areas of healthcare, there are numerous career pathways for nurses to follow. For example, they can study for advanced qualifications, such as a master’s degree, which can provide them with more choices for progression. They can qualify as nurse practitioners (NPs) and choose which populations to work with and how they want to specialize.

Continuing education is essential in nursing and means that nurses constantly improve their knowledge and skills. They can achieve professional recognition and a fulfilling career with a commitment to professional development.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that the demand for nurse practitioners should increase by 40% from 2021 to 2031. This is a much more significant increase than they expect for other occupations. There are many reasons this profession has grown, including greater numbers of elderly people and the increased needs of underserved populations. NPs are well respected in healthcare and have demonstrated that they improve health outcomes.

There is a growing demand for family nurse practitioners (FNPs) who deliver primary care for patients across their lifespan. Becoming an FNP provides more autonomy in practice and a higher salary. Wilkes University offers online FNP programs, such as their online Master of Science – Family Nurse Practitioner. These courses provide a pathway to a rewarding and interesting career, while the university’s clinical placement team supports students to ensure a high-quality placement experience.


Healthcare employers carry out annual appraisals of their staff. They are an essential part of continuing development because they provide time to reflect on career plans and set goals for future development. As part of the appraisal, the nurse’s development and progression are evaluated. Nurses can reflect on their career journey to date and consider which roles, courses, and career pathways suit their interests, skills, and strengths. It is best to align courses and training to their role and their employer’s goals.

Nurses complete a PDP (personal development plan) with the support of their line manager. Future objectives and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals are recorded in the PDP. When planning career goals, looking at the bigger picture is beneficial. Nurses can consider where they would like to be in ten years and what they must do to get there. They can break this down to create five-year and one-year plans. Goals can also be broken down into separate milestones.

Goals can vary in type and time frame. An informal goal might be to increase empathy for patients by spending an extra five minutes with new patients to find out three items of interest about them. A formal goal could be to enroll in a master’s degree program that year and complete the course within three years.


As part of the process, nurses should identify career and personal goals they would like to achieve over a set period. Some factors to consider include:

  • Specific goals
  • Action needed to reach the goals
  • Relevance to the employer
  • Planned completion date

Nurses must commit to professional development to stay on top of the latest nursing best practices and demonstrate their commitment to the field. The PDP is a helpful method for guiding careers. It can provide a career plan, identify resources needed, and ensure the support of managers. PDPs should not be revisited at least once a quarter to clarify what has been accomplished so far and the career plans that still need to be worked on. Plans may evolve and need to be adapted. Some goals may be removed from the PDP if the nurse’s plans change. Updating a PDP can provide motivation and remind nurses which goals to work toward.

Nurses who wish to progress to leadership or specialty roles should discuss their aspirations with their superiors. A manager can support nursing staff in many ways, including helping them join committees interact with other departments, and sponsor them for introductory leadership positions. Setting PDP goals can help managers understand their staff’s aspirations and what support they can give to their nurses.

Moreover, when staff let managers know about their professional goals, it can help the organization with succession planning. As more nurses retire, there is a need for other nurses to advance at work and fulfill more senior roles. More nurses, such as nurse practitioners, will be needed in leadership and advanced practice nursing roles. When PDPs are completed with care, they can be useful for working toward and achieving career goals.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

A continuous learning and professional development culture allows nursing staff to improve patient care, develop leadership skills, and stay updated on the latest advancements. Nurses can perform well in their roles by continually learning and contributing to their team and organization. Healthcare is constantly evolving, and continuing education helps nurses stay current on developments related to procedures, medications, technology, and techniques. It keeps their knowledge and skills updated and ensures they are familiar with recent evidence-based best practices.

There are many opportunities for professional development in nursing. These include working with a mentor, shadowing, learning to operate new equipment, or taking relevant courses. Nurses can choose activities that relate to their career goals and interests and align with employer expectations.

Obtaining an advanced degree is a significant way to achieve professional development. Nurses can network with other nurses by joining local or national organizations. Being an active participant can mean developing skills that can be applied in leadership roles.

Having a mentor can be a useful development experience. This entails a more senior member of staff taking on a supportive role with someone less experienced and encouraging learning and reflection as well as personal and career development. Mentors share their time and expertise, challenge mentees to think differently and introduce ideas for improvement.

A mentor can be chosen because they work in a profession the mentee is interested in, and they can provide insight into that role. The mentee can receive ongoing support, direction, and advice, along with recommendations for development opportunities. The mentor can provide information on advanced study and suitable courses.

Professional development can also include becoming a mentor. This involves sharing the knowledge and skills needed to support and guide a more junior staff member. Understanding and learning more about a junior nurse’s experience can be beneficial. These skills can be used if the mentor takes on a leadership role in the future and needs to oversee the continuing education of their team. Taking an interest in staff development and positively contributing to learning is an essential attribute of a nurse leader.

Shadowing is a good way to learn more about a specific type of nursing career. This is an opportunity to gain insight into the job that cannot be obtained simply by reading about it. It is a chance to find out as much as possible about the job and discuss career goals. It is important to ask questions, make notes, observe the duties, and learn about the culture, environment, and team.

Shadowing can give nurses a better understanding of the job and help them determine whether they can see themselves working in that role. It can also provide ideas about the development needed to become a suitable applicant. The knowledge gained can be useful when applying for an advanced degree to qualify for the position.

Nurse practitioner

Registered nurses can advance their careers by training to become NPs. Training to be an NP involves studying for a master’s or doctorate. An MSN program typically includes studying advanced nursing practice, education, research, and informatics. Specialized options include family, acute care, pediatric, emergency, oncology, orthopedic, and psychiatric nursing. Once qualified, students will have the skills to provide advanced care, influence healthcare policy, and become healthcare leaders. Nurses with high-level qualifications often enjoy better job opportunities and greater progression.

It is possible to study online for an MSN. Studying online is a good option for working nurses and those with family responsibilities. Students can watch lectures at a convenient time and fit their studies into their schedules. There is virtual communication between students and the benefit of communicating with other nurses working in various settings. Moreover, learning remotely can improve technology skills, which can be useful at work.

An NP delivers primary and specialty healthcare and has comparable responsibilities to a physician. These professionals usually focus on a particular group, such as families, elderly people, or children. NPs diagnose and treat health conditions, review diagnostic tests, and prescribe medicine. They work on preventing illness and promote services such as counseling and health screenings. NPs provide patient care that is evidence-based and individualized, collaborating with other staff to ensure patients receive comprehensive care.

Like registered nurses, nurse practitioners can choose specialties that involve working with a specific group. Some examples include family, acute care, pediatric, emergency, oncology, orthopedic, and psychiatric nursing practitioners. NPs work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and private practices. The NP’s role is to provide patients with quality care and ensure better healthcare access. They are essential in ensuring patients receive care when required. They focus on health promotion, disease prevention, counseling, and education, supporting patients in making positive decisions to improve their health.

In addition to providing expert clinical care, NPs work with organizations like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to serve in elected leadership positions, influence health policy, and network with colleagues. NPs are active in the communities and organizations they work in, promoting the best interests of patients and championing nursing professionals. NPs play an essential role in increasing health equity and reducing the effects of social determinants of health among patients. Better education and improved health literacy can empower patients to make positive decisions about their health and use preventative services.

The FNP’s role

FNPs care for patients of all ages and typically see patients in person. They build relationships with patients and understand their health needs and risks. FNPs have a comprehensive perspective on patient care, seeing patients as individuals and family members. They have wide-ranging knowledge, which helps when caring for different patient concerns. FNPs can help improve standards of care nationwide. Right now, there is a physician shortage, and FNPs can use their clinical expertise to help address this shortfall.

FNPs typically have varied responsibilities. They are usually the first healthcare professionals that patients see, and their evaluation underpins subsequent treatment. They are trained to perform examinations and determine the patient’s medical background. They understand which diagnostic tests and information are needed to make an accurate diagnosis. They can interpret the situation, clarify the problems, and recommend appropriate treatment. FNPs serve as a liaison between patients and physicians and are a focal point for healthcare communication. They ensure all members of the healthcare team receive the information they need to make decisions that benefit their patients.

FNPs can expand access to healthcare and improve healthcare in underserved communities. They promote good health and advocate for better services. The FNPs who work in urban and rural areas can provide support to communities in need. They can bring up-to-date medical care to treat patients with preventative care and early-stage intervention. They can achieve certification in specialist areas such as pain management, obesity, and diabetes. It can be a worthwhile and interesting role that involves caring for patients from different backgrounds with various health conditions and individual needs.

Success in nursing is an ongoing process

With ongoing professional development, nurses can advance their careers and take on advanced roles within healthcare. They can study for a master’s in nursing and qualify as a nurse practitioner. Appraisals and personal development plans can help them work toward their desired role and ensure they have the resources and support they need while mentoring and shadowing can enrich their development experience and help with career progression. Nurses who are committed to continuing education can have successful careers and become influential and respected leaders.