Career Progression Tips For Nurses

Nurses are needed everywhere, and there is a shortage not just in the USA but around the world. Yet just because nurses are needed, that doesn’t mean that any of them should neglect their own career progression – there is no point in staying somewhere or remaining at a certain level just to make others happy or because you feel that it is what you should be doing.

The truth is, what you should be doing is whatever is best for you, and if that’s following a route for career progression that you’ve set out for yourself, then that’s what you absolutely should do.

Yet even if you know that, as a nurse, you want to progress your career, it can be hard to determine how to do that, especially if you have been doing what others expected of you and not what you wanted to do for a while now. For some useful career progression tips, read on; some of these may help you start your nursing career journey sooner rather than later.

Take Your Time

Even if you’re already sure you want to study online BSN to DNP programs or work in a different setting or want to change disciplines and become a specialist nurse, you should take your time to think things through before proceeding with your travel nurse application. When you rush, you might make a mistake, and although no mistake is impossible to correct, if you have to do so, it will take you a lot more time, effort, and potentially money to get where you want to be.

With this in mind, schedule some time when you are alone and have no other duties or responsibilities to consider, and think about exactly what you want out of your nursing career. Think about your career, your aspirations, your ultimate goals, and how you want to feel when you look back on your life. Even if you’re completely happy right now, having a plan for the future is important; it will help you make big decisions in the future.

When you have this scheduled time to think, you should include:

  • Research on the different hospitals, clinics, or other medical settings in your area.
  • Research on the same but further away – would your future include moving to a new location?
  • Looking into the money you earn and determining if you would like to earn more.
  • Determining which online BSN to DNP programs are the best so that you’re ready to apply when you need to.
  • Think about whether or not you might like to take some time to volunteer at home or abroad.
  • Look around for recruitment days that you can attend.

Essentially, by the time you’re finished, you should have a roadmap that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be by the time you retire.


Although, of course, you’ll need to have the specialist qualifications that some from online BSN to DNP programs, and of course, you’ll need to have plenty of nursing experience when it comes to looking for advancement opportunities, you can also benefit from networking. This is not just something that business people can use to advance their careers or find business partners; nurses can do the same.

Networking will help you to find a mentor, for example. Even if this mentor can’t actively help you find a specific job, they will help you get ready for the application, interview, and even the work involved when you do come across one. Mentors are ideal for nurses as their job can be an emotionally challenging one and having someone to talk to – such as a mentor – is vital for emotional health.

As well as mentors, networking can help you find jobs, promotions, and even more information about online BSN to DNP programs. One way to do this is to join LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social media platform, but rather than being aimed at personal connections, it has been created to give you career and professional connections. You can reach out to other nurses, healthcare workers, anyone who might be able to help you, and whom you can help in return.

Are there are job fairs happening near you? This can also be a good way to find a career progression path. It might not be ideal for those who already have a lot of experience and know what they want to do, or those who are completing online BSN to DNP programs already, but if you’re just starting your planning for the future, they can give you a good idea of what might be available, and you might even find that there are jobs qualified nurses can do that you had never thought of before, giving you more avenues to explore.


Shadowing is a wonderful way to find out more about what specific types of nurses do. For example, you might be interested in working in a fracture clinic or working with children, or any other department or specialty.

However, if you’ve never actually done this, then before you start looking into which online BSN to DNP programs are going to be best for you and help you move in that direction, it’s worth shadowing a nurse who is already working in that area to see what it is they do daily. In this way, you can be sure that it’s what you want to do – or not – before moving to the next step.

This idea will take some initiative, and you’ll need to reach out personally (unless you have a mentor who can do it for you) to find a nurse who would be willing to take on this task.

They won’t necessarily have to teach you anything, and you won’t be there to disrupt their work since you’ll just be watching and taking in information that you see, but not everyone is going to be comfortable doing this, which is why you might need to ask a variety of different people before you find one who accepts.

Because this is something that you would have to do in your spare time, it’s important to plan out how long you think would be necessary to follow someone for; how long will it take you to discover whether or not the department you’ve chosen is what you want, or the healthcare setting (such as a senior care home or a prison, for example) is the right one?

Before you start, you can make a checklist of all the things you need to know about, from working hours to the physical challenges involved to the kinds of procedures you’ll be carrying out. Once your list is complete, you’ll have enough information to determine what you want to do next.


When you apply for online BSN to DNP programs, it can help if you have some (or ideally a lot) of volunteering work on your resume. Volunteering could mean that you have gone to another country and helped out in areas where nurses are scarce, and there is a lot of ill health or even injuries. Or it might mean that you have spent some of your free evenings helping at a local clinic carrying out vaccinations and taking blood.

Volunteering is great for you in all kinds of ways, boosting your confidence, showing you what you like and dislike, and, of course, it’s great for career progression.

If you have a specific career goal in mind, then the volunteering you take on should ideally reflect that, although if you find it hard to volunteer in that area because there are no spaces or opportunities or because you need specific qualifications before you can do it, then any volunteering will be a good alternative; something is better than nothing.

When you volunteer in the healthcare setting that you are hoping to move up to and into, you can enhance the skills you already have, and you can learn new ones that will enable you to do the work yourself. Your strengths and your weaknesses will be tested, and you will have the rare chance to boost both of them in one go.

Gain More Qualifications

Nursing is a unique career in that it is partly extremely technical and partly about compassion and caring. It is both intellectual and emotional, and switching from one form to another is crucial if you want to do well. Something else that is crucial if you want to rise through the ranks and end your career in a higher position than you started it from are qualifications.

Before you can begin nursing, you’ll need to qualify as an RN. That’s the very start, but it’s not the end of your learning; every day, when you are helping your patients and working in a close-knit team and making critical – sometimes life or death – decisions for yourself, you’ll be learning.

You’ll also be learning if you choose to delve deeper into online BSN to DNP programs and other similar online nursing courses.

When you do this, you’ll be able to earn additional qualifications that will allow you to progress in your career, and without which you would reach a plateau that you won’t be able to get over no matter how much experience you have (which, of course, is exactly what some people want. If, however, you do want to progress, going back to school is essential).

Online learning is the best choice for a nurse who is already working full-time. Online BSN to DNP programs allow those taking part to work at their own pace, studying when they can and logging into their courses not at regularly scheduled times, but whenever they are free to do so.

In this way, you won’t have to sacrifice your working time for your studying because you won’t have a physical school to go to at the same time every week (often multiple times a week). This means that, by taking online BSN to DNP programs, you have more opportunities to advance your career than ever before, and it’s worth taking that opportunity.

You’ll indeed need to give up some of your free time, but when you consider what having this additional qualification will do for your career, you can see that it would be worth it.

Speak to Your Manager

Something that a lot of people fail to do when they are thinking of their nursing career progression and they either aren’t sure what they want to do or they do know, but they don’t know how to take the next necessary step is to speak to their manager. This can often feel daunting and even unnecessary.

Still, it can help you greatly, and a good manager is never going to turn anyone away who is looking for advice and information about enhancing their career, especially if that enhancement is going to help the department, hospital, clinic, or wherever it is you currently work.

The next time you have a one to one appraisal session, make the most of it by asking questions and working out goals that you can achieve in the near future. This will help you determine where your skills lie, and it will enable your manager to see that you are serious about moving forward.

If your next appraisal is a while away or you don’t have them regularly, then book a meeting with your manager and speak to them about your ideas. Although this can be difficult in a busy department, it is worth doing, even if you have to stay after work to have this discussion.

Finding out what your manager thinks would be the best next step for you can help a lot, and since they are impartial and can look at the situation from an objective viewpoint, their advice could be invaluable.


There are a great many ways that a nurse can enhance their career, from volunteering to online BSN to DNP programs. Understanding which direction you want your career to go in and how you want to get there is important; once you have a path in front of you, career progression is much simpler.