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What’s Next? Taking Your Nursing Career to the Next Level

The rewards of a nursing career can be numerous. First of all, it’s a financially stable job that offers good pay. But beyond the financial concerns (which are, of course, important) there’s the emotional rewards that often come with a nursing job. Nurses are given the privilege of caring for those who need help the most — the injured, sick, and dying. The difference a good nurse can make in the lives of others is incalculable.

Nurses can offer care not just in terms of healing physical ailments, but also being a good listener, being able to comfort a patient’s loved ones, and offering a sympathetic ear to patients who are frightened about a procedure or afraid of how an injury or ailment may change their lives. While the role of a nurse can often be physically and emotionally demanding, it also offers a great deal of satisfaction for those with the temperament for it.

In addition to the considerable job security (the job outlook for nurses is expected to grow by 16% through 2024), there’s also the increased flexibility which comes with being a nurse. As a nurse, you might go to work in a hospital, a nursing facility, or anywhere where a nurse’s skillset is in demand. If you are particularly interested in taking on nursing roles which give you the opportunity to constantly be positioned in different work environments you can try travel nursing. Travel nurses specialize in certain nursing areas, providing them with increased competitiveness in the marketplace. These areas include intensive care, emergency, labor and delivery, and operating and telemetry nursing. In addition, the travel nurse salary range is considerably high. Currently the travel nurse salary range is $89,500 to $133,500  and may vary depending on hours worked or bonuses.

But what do you do if you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can being an RN? What do you do if you want to further your career and move on from nursing duties, fulfilling as they might be? Fortunately, that flexibility applies to a nurse’s career choices as well — there are a number of paths you can take when you want to take your nursing career to the next level.

Administration

One option for nurses who want to leave the bedside but continue to work to improve the lives of both patients and employees is to go into administration. This means moving up to an executive position to make high-level decisions about how the healthcare organization will be run. It’s largely a clerical position, involving things like developing training programs, creating policies and procedures, budgeting, setting performance goals and conducting performance evaluations, creating schedules, planning staff meetings, and reporting to the executives and CEO of the hospital. This position requires leadership skills, good communication, and possibly some business management skills.

Management

For nurses who want to work more closely with RNs and hospital staff while still having higher-level responsibilities, there’s always the option of management. A good nursing management program is vital to the smooth operation of a healthcare facility, and from their first-hand experience, former nurses are ideally suited to this kind of work. It may require some additional education and special training to prepare them, but their close knowledge of how nurses already work will be a huge advantage. Nursing management includes being responsible for consistency, standardized procedures, and cooperation. Often, taking a management position means handling a specific department, such as the ICU or radiology. As with nursing itself, the main goal is to provide the highest quality of care for patients, while also making sure the nursing team can work effectively and smoothly.

Advanced Degrees and Certifications

One of the most straightforward ways to move forward in your nursing career is to obtain an advanced degree or certification. Higher education is a necessary step toward becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP). to become an FNP, you could pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN-FNP) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP-FNP). If you already have one of these degrees, you could choose to pursue a post-master’s FNP certificate. Much as with administration and management, becoming a nurse practitioner means moving into a more leadership-centric role, as well as planning, decision-making, policy, and more.

Specialization

Another way nurses can move forward in their careers after becoming nurse practitioners is to find an area of specialization. This allows NPs to pursue their main interests and find a fulfilling and satisfying niche in their field. Some common nurse practitioner areas of specialization include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNPC-AG)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)
  • Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiology Nurse Practitioner
  • Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
Private Practice

Many nurses choose to alter their career path by leaving the hospitals and clinics and moving into private practice. This allows nurse practitioners to work more closely with individual patients, as well as offering medical services on their own terms. Going into private practice isn’t easy — the rules for setting up a private practice vary by state, and some require NPs to still work with a physician. NPs must be aware of these laws before they start working toward establishing their practice.