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Nursing students in a classroom setting raising their hands

Nursing is a dynamic field that demands dedication, compassion, and continuous learning. Whether you're a recent graduate or have a few years already under your belt, these tips can guide you toward growth and success in this profession*.

1. Find What Fits, But Stay Open to Change

There are so many different types of settings and specialties where nurses work. If the first one you pursue doesn’t work out, don’t fret. Try something different. Your professional wants and needs will probably evolve during your career anyway. What works for you at 25 might not fit your life at 35. There’s no shame in switching roles if you feel burnt out or crave a change. You never know what possibilities exist outside your comfort!

2. Embrace Adaptability in Your Nursing Practice

Healthcare is a dynamic field, and situations can change rapidly. Cultivate adaptability by remaining flexible in your approach to patient care. Be open to new technologies, protocols, and methods, and be prepared to adjust your strategies as needed. The ability to adapt will make you a valuable asset to your team.

3. Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions

Asking questions, whether to patients or other care providers, is vital. Getting confirmation or clarification is always preferable to making an error. You might worry about seeming uneducated, but no one knows or understands everything right away. If you don’t ask questions, you might even seem unengaged or uninterested in bettering yourself.

4. Embrace Lifelong Learning

New nursing research, technologies, and best practices are emerging regularly. Commit to lifelong learning through workshops, conferences, and pursuing certification in areas you’re passionate about. These experiences can enhance your knowledge and demonstrate your dedication to providing quality care. (Be sure to keep your resume and online profiles current to reflect your learning! If applying to a new job, organize your resume to highlight relevant educational experiences.) Depending on your interests and goals, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in nursing may also help you acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.

5. Develop Strong Communication Skills

When interacting with patients and coworkers, you’ll need to practice active listening and convey information clearly and compassionately. Collaborating with your colleagues, physicians, and other healthcare professionals will ensure the best outcomes for your patients. If you pursue an advanced nursing degree, your program may help you build your communication skills. Additionally, many continuing education courses and trainings cover this topic.

6. Build Strong Relationships

Nursing is a team-based profession, and building relationships with colleagues is essential. Working on your professional relationships will help create a supportive and cohesive working environment that benefits your patients and your work. And don’t forget the people outside the direct care team--from people in IT to the front desk to the cafeteria. Do your best to foster a friendly, positive culture with everyone you interact with.

If you or a colleague changes roles, stay in touch. You never know when you might be able to help each other, from providing a reference to lending a sympathetic ear after a stressful day. Beyond the workplace, participating in conferences and associations is a great way to connect with others in your field.

7. Seek Mentorship

Find an experienced nurse who can serve as your go-to when you want guidance or support. A mentor can share insights and offer valuable advice based on their own experiences navigating workplace challenges. They can also help you to build your network and open doors to new opportunities.

8. Create a Plan for Each Day

Nurses juggle many tasks every day. While interruptions and unexpected requests will undoubtedly arise, start each day with a general plan for what you'll tackle and in what order. This will help make you feel more organized and less stressed. You’ll also have something to refer back to when you’re unsure what to do next.

9. Set Long Term Professional Goals

Establish clear and achievable professional goals to guide your future actions. Whether it's pursuing advanced degrees, a new specialization, or a leadership role, having goals (and an ideal timeline) gives you direction and motivation. As you gain experience and your career progresses, reassess and adjust these goals. Remember, priorities and interests shift over time!

10. Prioritize Self-Care

Nursing can be emotionally and physically demanding. Prioritizing self-care can help prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being. Get enough sleep, seek out activities you enjoy, and establish a healthy work-life balance. This includes using your vacation time and doing your best to disengage from work at the end of the day.

Let’s talk about your educational and professional goals.

Opportunities for growth and development abound in nursing. Embracing lifelong learning, honing communication skills, prioritizing self-care, staying adaptable, building relationships, and setting goals are all actions that can help you pursue a successful nursing career. Remember, each experience is a stepping stone toward becoming a more seasoned and confident healthcare professional.

If you want to start or advance your education, South University offers a collaborative, supportive, and flexible learning environment. Explore our campus-based and online nursing programs to learn more or request information to speak with an admissions representative.

*Nurses must pass the NCLEX exam in order to work. Each student is responsible for reviewing all national requirements as well as any state requirements where the student is located for the most accurate information to work as nurses. South University cannot guarantee each graduate will pass the required licensure examinations. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

South University does not promise or guarantee employment.