Career advice

How to take charge of your nursing career

Identifying your strengths and passions will help you navigate a career path that suits you

Identifying your strengths and passions will help you navigate a career path that suits you

Picture shows people on a stage facing an audience at the RCNi nursing careers and jobs fair held in London in September 2019. Knowing your strengths and what you love about your job will help you navigate a career path that suits you best.
Liavel Vargas will host a workshop at the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fair in Leicester  Picture: Barney Newman

Nursing is a lifelong career with endless opportunities, but career pathways are not always linear. Having personal drive and being ready to face new challenges are essential for career development.

New roles are emerging continually in the acute, community and private sectors, with nurses involved more than ever in policy and decision-making. Some are also trailblazing research and innovation, with more nurses embarking on clinical academic careers and fellowship roles.

I have had a varied nursing career so far, and although I did not have a specific plan, I have always adopted the attitude that I am in charge of my career. With courage, and the support of family, friends and colleagues, I have been able to go for the roles that interest me.

‘Taking charge of your own career is vital, as only you know when you are ready to take the next step’

My career in the profession started at age 17, as one of ten school leavers on a cadet nursing programme in Lincolnshire. On completion of the two-year scheme we were guaranteed a place on a nursing course at the University of Nottingham, and in 2008 I started my adult nurse training, graduating with a BSc in nursing in 2011.

My first role after qualifying was as a scrub nurse in neuro theatres at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. This was followed by a staff nurse post in cardiology at Lincoln County Hospital, where I also obtained my mentorship qualification and started supporting students and newly qualified nurses.

Find your passion in nursing

I returned to Nottingham in 2014 to work as a staff nurse in the emergency department. But my passion has always been nurse education, so when a preceptorship support nurse role – now called practice educator – became available, I went for it. 

The role supports learners in practice – newly qualified nurses, nurses new to the acute setting, students, healthcare support workers and international nurses .

Tips for taking charge of your career

  • Get a good foundation It’s important to learn about yourself and to reflect on what you enjoy about your role and what could be improved
  • Make the most of every role or experience Learning opportunities are everywhere, so be sure to grab them, however big or small
  • Don’t focus your energy on finding the ‘perfect job’ Every role has its merits and can help take you where you want to be
  • Network Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who are honest with you and who will support you
  • Find a mentor and/or a coach to guide you
  • Ask for help and know your limitations. Ask for and give feedback.
  • Appreciate your worth and don’t lose your sense of identity. You can only be the best version of yourself
  • Be bold, be brave, be curious Respect others along your journey and share your achievements. Remember that you are in charge and need to take the first step

 

Recognising the potential in a new role

In December 2018, I started a year-long professional fellowship role with Health Education England, East Midlands, leading a project to improve recruitment and retention of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Nottinghamshire.

I saw the potential to understand and influence workforce planning in Nottinghamshire – as well as to develop my leadership skills and see the bigger picture of recruitment and retention by developing my political and strategic thinking.

During the fellowship I have shadowed senior nurses in the area, and am now a member of the Nottinghamshire Nursing and Midwifery Cabinet, a group of senior nursing and midwifery leaders and stakeholders in the Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System.

The group influence, shape and advise on nursing and midwifery workforce strategy, as well as raising the professional voice of nursing and midwifery.

Identify your strengths and areas for improvement

The fellowship has allowed me to reflect on my identity as a nurse and why I love what I do – helping nurses with their career development.

Taking charge of your own career is vital, as only you know when you are ready to take the next step. Identify your strengths and potential areas for improvement, as well as what you love about your role and how it could be improved.

With the support of your managers, this will help you identify the opportunities offered by new roles and navigate the right career path for you.


Picture of Liavel Vargas, a professional fellow for Health Education England, East Midlands, career development and retention. She says knowing your strengths and what you love about your job will help you navigate a career path that suits you best.Liavel Vargas @Liavelvargas is a professional fellow for Health Education England, East Midlands, career development and retention, hosted by the Nottinghamshire Nursing and Midwifery Cabinet and the Institute of Nursing and Midwifery Care Excellence at Nottingham University Hospitals 

Ms Vargas will host a workshop on taking charge of your career at the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fair in Leicester on 5 November.

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs FairsRCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs are the largest CPD-accredited nursing recruitment events in the UK. Visitors can meet leading employers and agencies with immediate vacancies, and receive advice on finding a new job, revalidation, and climbing the career ladder.

If you're looking for a new job, or aiming to develop your nursing career in 2018, come along to our next event. Go to www.careersandjobsfair.com to book your free place today.


RCN Bulletin Jobs

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Hundreds of new posts are added every month and you can browse vacancies by field of practice, band or location.

Registration is quick, making it as simple as possible for you to take the next step in your career.

Find out more at www.rcnbulletinjobs.co.uk

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