Career advice

Grow your own career

When asked to write an article 30 years ago, Caroline Shuldham had reservations. Now, writing is a big part of her career. Here, she explains why you should keep an open mind to similar offers.

When asked to write an article 30 years ago, Caroline Shuldham had reservations. Now, writing is a big part of her career. Here, she explains why you should keep an open mind to similar offers


Taking a wider view of nursing can help you understand what is happening
outside of your immediate workplace. Picture: iStock

I recently read an advertisement with the headline, ‘Goodbye job, hello career’. Although it was for an accountancy course, the same message could easily apply to nursing. 

A crucial aspect to developing a career is how you take advantage of opportunities. For example, an incident with a patient may alert staff to a problem that needs remedying, and being involved in service improvement in this way can be inspiring, challenging and fulfilling. Not only can it benefit patients, it can enhance the field of practice, become the subject of a paper and be a springboard for further initiatives.

It is worth volunteering to take responsibility, by leading changes based on research, or joining a working group. Though it may not be clear at the outset where it will lead, often we do not know what we are capable of until we try.

Talk to others 

In addition to accepting projects at work, it is important to take a wider view of nursing and to understand what is happening outside your immediate workplace. This can be helped by attending conferences, teaching or writing for publications. 

If you are interested in writing, a good idea is to talk to colleagues, a manager or a mentor, as this will help you generate ideas and seek support. Working with an experienced writer who can read a draft and introduce you to an editor is great, and collaborating on a joint enterprise can be a wonderful way to get started in a new venture.

You could think about writing for RCNi, which publishes several specialist journals, and Nursing Standard. It can seem daunting, but everyone has a story to tell, and the editors and other members of the editorial team are always happy to hear from new writers. 

Plenty of positives 

Publication takes a nurse’s knowledge and experience to a national and even international audience. It is a means of contributing to debates you might already be having with colleagues, or communicating the results of a project, so that others can learn and adapt for their patients.  

Nowadays, this can be achieved through online discussions and forums as well as publications. There may be guidance on these matters at your workplace that is worth being aware of, and always let your manager know what you are planning in case there is a process to go through before pieces appear online or in print.

When undertaking activities such as writing, it may be necessary to commit your own time and believe in your own abilities. But remember that these contributions to nursing and patient care spread good practice, contribute to personal development, provide evidence for revalidation and are excellent components of a CV. This will boost your job prospects and help you have a successful nursing career.


Caroline Shuldham is chair of the RCNi editorial advisory board

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