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  • 02 January 2014
  • 5 min read

How to move up the food chain in nursing: practical tips

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Being as nursing is a highly honourable profession and one that enriches the lives of so many people around the world, it's hard to view it as something you can 'get ahead in'. It's common to see nurses as people working tirelessly for the great of good, but in doing so, medical professionals are also taking the necessary steps to get ahead in their line of work.

Nursing is one of the many jobs where promotions and career opportunities are there to be grasped, and there's always space for the next generation of leaders to step forward.

Earlier this year David Cameron called for a "new style" of nurse leadership to banish poor practice from hospital wards around the nation.

 His comments came in light of the most recent report into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, which saw 'Mid Staffs' become a byword for NHS care at its most negligent.     

Adding to the debate, Andy Cruickshank, lead nurse and associate clinical director for Tower Hamlets at East London NHS Foundation Trust, said British nursing is facing one of its biggest leadership challenges and beckoned the next wave of talent to come forward.

So if there's ever a time for Britain's nurses to take initiative and attempt to climb the hospital ladder, it's now.

If you're looking to kickstart your medical career, here's how you might go about improving your prospects.

Get a helping hand

It's a lot harder to get ahead in nursing if you don't feel you know the profession well enough.

Sure, you might have the right attitude and work ethic to make it to the top, but without the knowledge you lack arguably the most crucial attribute. 

There's no better way to learn on the job than by forging a close partnership with an experienced nurse and asking them to be your mentor. 

Old hands in the nursing profession will have been in your shoes before and know plenty about the business you're in.

A good mentor will give you valuable insights, deliver sage advice whilst  listening to your concerns should you have any to share.

Ask any experienced head about their time as a young nurse and they'll be sure to thank their mentor for their part in their development.

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Get qualified

The learning doesn't stop once you've finally gained your first taste of life as a nurse. Take a look at all the senior professionals in your hospital; what have they all got in common?

The answer? A PHD, nursing certification or similar.

Getting yourself increasingly educated sends a strong message to your employer.

They're made aware of the fact you're in nursing for the foreseeable future and wish to carve a long-term career out of the profession.

Once you've passed your exams, you're then able to prove why you should be considered for higher roles.

On the other hand, if you don't see a future at your current workplace, adding qualifications to your CV is one of the best ways of putting yourself in the shop window.

Get qualified and you'll be sure that someone, somewhere will take notice.

Get trained

As so much is expected of nurses in modern day, hospitals have turned to offering in-house training to their staff in order to enhance their skillsets.

Nurses are now required to possess knowledge in a number of different areas of health as well as in new equipment.

Most employers offer training options and educational opportunities for their employees and you should look to seize these with both hands.

If your current workplace doesn't offer this luxury, why not campaign to see it introduced? Hospitals benefit hugely from training their existing employees to perform a certain task rather than getting specialists in to do it themselves.

Thus, your employer should be open to this highly cost-effective suggestion. 

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Get working

Rarely does a nurse's day go by when they're not faced with the tricky decision of whether to work extra hours or to head home.

If you're willing to dig deep and graft away to get where you want to be, why not put in the extra work now?

Put yourself forward to manage difficult patients, volunteer to cover the occasional shift and make sure all of your efforts are getting noticed.

If you're looking to work yourself up to a desired standard, working harder is the best way to speed things up. 

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Get noticed

It might seem like advice that could apply to any profession but how can you expect to impress the powers that be if they don't know your name?

As well as finding yourself a mentor, it's well within your best interests to get acquainted with the people that make your hospital tick.

Make sure they're aware of your role, where you've come from and where you want to be in the next five years.

That way you'll ensure that your name is put forward when a better role comes up.

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About the author

I believe people should be able to choose to enjoy work. That is, choose an employer who reflects their values and provides them with a sustainable career.

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