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3 Things You Need to Advance Your Nursing Career

3 things you to advance your nursing career

3 Things You Need to Advance Your Nursing Career

Have you ever wondered why some nurses seem to effortlessly advance in their careers? They are tapped for promotions, asked to serve as interim managers, and selected for special projects. While their ascent may appear effortless to the outsider, chances are those nurses are savvy and intuitively understand the secrets to success. Here’s what they know and the 3 things you need to know to advance your nursing career.

Advancing in your nursing career is a function of opportunity, timing, and preparation. 3 things you need to advance your nursing career

1. Opportunity

Opportunities will increase exponentially in the next decade as Baby Boomer nurses retire, leaving behind vacant and coveted positions. In the hospital setting alone, there will be openings in Case Management, Infection Prevention, Staff Training and Development, Quality Improvement, Risk, Regulatory, and more. New positions will be created as the healthcare industry changes and adapts.

Shift Leader and Charge Nurse positions provide a first step into leadership roles for the clinical bedside nurses.

2. Timing

Timing is when an opportunity presents at the exact time in your life when you are ready and available to take on the challenge. Over a career, readiness fluctuates and opportunities wax and wane. The two do not always align. For example, there are times when family needs take priority over a job that involves travel, or one that requires a huge time commitment along with increased responsibility.

But there are times when an opportunity presents, you are ready, and only in looking back, do you realize it was nothing short of destiny. note: It is important to be academically prepared so that you meet the qualifications when the right opportunity presents.

3. Preparation

You do not have control over opportunity and timing, which is even more reason to be prepared. This is where many candidates fail. Opportunities are awarded to those who are prepared and who have the requisite skills.

One example of when it’s essential to be prepared is the job interview. All things being equal, jobs are offered to the candidate who stands out in an interview.


Ashley applied for the position of  Peri-Operative Educator. A long time employee, Ashley felt confident going into the interview and winging it because of her outgoing, perky personality, and because she had recently been voted Employee of the Month. She believed she would land the job based on the strength of her personality and her exemplary patient care skills. While that may have been true in the past, those days are gone.

When asked “Tell us about yourself” Ashley launched into a long and non-cohesive series of personal stories which were not particularly relevant to the position. She realized she was rambling but couldn’t stop. Clearly improvising and overly emotive, it was clear that Ashely had no idea what she was going to say beforehand. When she left the room, the interviewers, including colleagues who knew her, looked at each other and shook their heads.

Ashley had potential but failed to prepare. Ashley did not land the job. The next candidate was Lisa.

Lisa knew the mission of the hospital, understood the importance of improving quality metrics through nursing education, expressed dedication to bringing evidence-based practice to the bedside and skillfully wove all of these elements into  her responses.

When asked “Tell us about yourself” Lisa responded with three well thought-out points, having prepared using the Present/Past/Future Model to answer this question.

She knew exactly what not to say when asked the dreaded “What are your greatest weaknesses?” question and responded with poise. The interviewers were impressed and realized she would apply the same skills showcased during her interview to the position of Peri-Operative Educator.

Lisa was asked how soon she could start.

Increase Your Interview IQ

  • Interviews are not about you. They are about what you can do for the organization. Speak to a problem you can help to solve and give examples of the value you bring.  
  • Tell your hiring manager you’d like to serve on some interviewing panels. Use the time to learn what interviewers are looking for in a candidate. Listen carefully to questions asked, and more importantly, remarks made when  candidates leave the room. You will learn exactly what hiring managers look for in a winning candidate.
  • Increase your cultural competence. Consider  what being a “good fit” means in your organization and why candidates are accepted or rejected based on their ability to be a “good fit”.


Planning ahead will help you when the right opportunity comes long.

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth  career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) 


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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