May 10, 2017

The Best Career Advice From 30 Leaders In The Nursing Field

The Best Career Advice From 30 Leaders In The Nursing Field

Ask a nurse you admire how they got to where they are and more often than not, they'll point to a mentor or preceptor who helped them along the way.

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Advice from someone who has overcome the challenges that go along with being a nurse can be invaluable in helping you succeed.

We asked 30 influential nurse leaders to share some of their best career advice for our readers. Here’s what they said.

Clareen Wiencek, Ph.D., RN, ACHPN, ACNP 
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Whether it is because you don’t know something, see something that makes you uncomfortable or has a fresh “outsider’s” eye for something that can be improved. When nurses lend their voice to their colleagues, it is powerful beyond measure.

Be an active member of a community of exceptional nurses. Join your professional association; engage in the local chapter, network and have fun. It will change your life plus someone will always have your back. 

Know that there will be highs and lows. Learning and gaining experience takes time – be gentle and patient with yourself.

Identify trusted colleagues for various purposes. A solid clinical preceptor with whom you feel safe to ask questions and show what you need to learn; perhaps a “coach”, mentor or other trusted colleague with whom you can let your hair down and share thoughts, fears, frustrations; a good friend who will remind you to relax and laugh and unwind.

Remain curious. Asking questions demonstrates your willingness to learn from others and allows you to be heard through inquiry. Curiosity is a welcome trait in nursing. 

Know that learning as a nurse is truly life-long. That will challenge and enrich your days as a nurse.   

“When nurses lend their voice to their colleagues, it is powerful beyond measure.” -Clareen Wiencek 
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Georgia Elmassian, MSN, MA, APRN, CPSN, CFLE
International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Nurses(ISPAN)

Looking back on my career—in the field, as an educator, and as a leader and activist—I have a breadth of experience from which to draw upon for new nurses.  I see nurses today and am awestruck by how far our profession has come in terms of technology, innovation, and education.  

While new nurses might use different tools and technologies, the pieces of advice I would give them are those that we have fundamentally practiced for generations: your patients are your priority, and teamwork is critical for their care! 

As nurses, we never fully know what patients or their families are thinking; so empathy, compassion, and respect are so important in times of distress. Treat patients and their families as your own, and never treat a patient as though they are just a number on a chart. Communicate clearly and compassionately with them, and remember that “listening” is 50% of open and interpersonal communication.

Beyond communicating with patients, communicate with your fellow nurses. You are playing on the same team, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, help a colleague, seek sound solutions together, and be open to learning from others.  Beyond patients, our professional success is measured by empowering others.

“Beyond patients, our professional success is measured by empowering others.” -Georgia Elmassian
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Board of Directors
American Association of Managed Care Nurses (AAMCN)

Welcome to a wonderful career. Congratulations on making it through and obtaining your license! Great first step! The best advice I can give to any new nurse is to never stop learning. Technology and the profession continue to grow and expand. You are the resource for the lives you touch. To be the most effective and greatest resource for each patient is to keep your knowledge fresh. Even if your state doesn’t require continuing education to renew your license, please challenge yourself to obtain the specialty certification in your area or areas of specialization. When you do, your profession transforms into your passion. When it becomes your passion, the term ‘job’ transitions to ‘joy’. I wish you a long career filled with joy.

“When it becomes your passion, the term ‘job’ transitions to ‘joy’.” -Jacqueline Cole
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Maureen Swick, MSN, Ph.D., RN, NEA-BC
American Hospital Association (AHA)

When it comes to giving career advice on nursing, for me it tends to be a bit more personal. Both my son and daughter are nurses and if you were to ask each of them about where they get career advice from, I am sure you would get a resounding “from our mom.” 

I am a strong proponent of education and I have advised them both to return to school soon after graduating from their nursing program. Whether one chooses to stay at the bedside or move into leadership, advanced practice nursing or academic positions, education will provide you with both options and opportunities. The last thing I would advise new nurses is to seek out a mentor, someone you admire that could help coach you as you progress in your career.

“Seek out a mentor, someone you admire that could help coach you as you progress.” -Maureen Swick
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Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Senior Adviser for Nursing
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

You have chosen a very important and honorable profession; there is no greater privilege than providing physical, emotional, and spiritual support to others.

Be aware of the varied career possibilities that will enable you to best use your unique passion and gifts, whether it is at the bedside, home or community, or as a teacher or researcher, and eventually in boardrooms and in political offices.

Find mentors to enhance your clinical experiences and leadership skills, and be sure to mentor others as you become a more seasoned nurse.

Support one another always.

Never consider yourself “just a nurse”. Speak up for your sake and for the sake of those in your care. You have knowledge and solutions for improving care, and you bring the compassion that you readily share with people, families, and communities.

Don’t ever let this compassion leave you. It is what makes you a nurse!

Remember to take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising – you need to be strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually to best take care of others and to model wellness for the people you serve.

“Speak up for your sake and for the sake of those in your care.” -Susan Hassmiller
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Tracey Gaslin Ph.D., CPNP, FNP-BC, CRNI
Executive Director 
Association of Camp Nurses (ACN)

Defining “success” for individuals is a daunting task as we each see that in a different light.  I think that whatever your dreams and aspirations may be, the best advice is to be open, be flexible, and willing to try new things.

It is often easy to “snuggle down” into our comfort zone and not push ourselves to try new opportunities that challenge us and may require us to answer questions with “I don’t know.”  There is no disgrace in not knowing an answer, but rather in not trying to find the answer.

Life is the pursuit of what creates joy for ourselves and for our patients.  If you are not creating joy, you are not nursing!

“There is no disgrace in not knowing an answer, but rather in not trying to find the answer.” -Tracey Gaslin
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Executive Director 
Nursing Administration in Long Term Care (NADONA)

For nurses to be successful, I believe they should pick a specialty organization, for instance for long-term and post-acute care, Nurse leaders within those facilities would join NADONA to find resources, mentors etc.

If you have a specific problem, most likely one of your colleagues have run across that problem too and through networking, with your peers, you can find an answer to your ‘problem’, and by the way, this also helps reduce turnover!

The second thing I would say is to get certified in your specialty, our organization has six specialty certifications. Becoming certified proves your dedication to your field, and proves your knowledge base. The credentials also assist with adding to your resume for the future!

The one things are nurses tend to eat their young, be supportive of every nurse new or seasoned! We need to be each other’s best support, not their worst nightmare!

“Becoming certified proves your dedication to your field, and proves your knowledge base.” -Sherrie Dornberger
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Melanie H. Simpson, Ph.D., RN-BC, OCN, CHPN, CPE
American Society for Pain Management Nursing

I would encourage every nurse to get involved in their specialty organization. From attending a local or national meeting to running for office.

This is a great way to learn about what is going on in your area of specialty both locally and nationally. It allows you to get to know the thought leaders and learn from them first hand.

Of course, knowledge breeds curiosity which sets you up to continue to question and learn about your practice. You benefit personally and professionally and your patients and your institution benefit greatly. This will improve your career satisfaction and ensure your success in a wonderful profession.

“I would encourage every nurse to get involved in their specialty organization.” -Melanie H. Simpson
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Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN
National Association of School Nurses 

1. Find your passion and enjoy what you do.

2. Step out of your comfort zone and be open to new opportunities.

3. Stay true to your word and accountable to others.

4. Join your professional organization and participate.

5. Create and share in a professional learning community on social media (Twitter & Blogging)

6. Actively listen and take an interest in the people in your life.   

7. Don’t judge others and don’t gossip.   

8. Value your team; others don’t think exactly the way you think and will bring different lived experiences, views, ideas and thoughts. This will ultimately lead to the best teams and best decisions. 

9. There is usually more than one way to do something.

10. Someone else will always be smarter, more articulate, older & wiser, more knowledgeable, more experienced, have more degrees, etc. Always value what you bring to the table. Your viewpoint is important and needed, but be sure to learn from those who cross your path!  You have what other’s don’t have - you are the only you.

11. You can always improve and learn more.

12. Take time to re-center yourself and ask the question, “Why am I doing this?”  Always start with why.

13. Spend meaningful time with your family and friends.

14. Take care of yourself.  Exercise, eat a nutritionally sound diet and get enough sleep.

“Always value what you bring to the table. Your viewpoint is important and needed.” -Beth Mattey
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CEO/Executive Director
Association of Perioperative Nurses (AORN)

Define your goals and then develop an action plan with steps to achieve the goal.  Seek out a mentor who will assist and guide you on your journey.


Angeline Bushy, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Professor & Bert Fish Endowed Chair
Community Health Nursing

Be flexible; you will learn more in the first 6 months than through your entire program of study.

An advanced degree is critical for progression in the profession and an ‘investment’.

When deciding on a focus, think long term.

Consider your career trajectory 10 or 15 years down the road; what is the future of the health care system and how will nursing fit?

Be open-minded. An area of practice disliked as a student, should the employment opportunity present, may be an area of practice in which you will thrive.

“An area of practice disliked as a student may be an area of practice in which you will thrive.” -Angeline Bushy
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Nadine Miller, RN
School Nurses Organization of Arizona (SNOA)

In any specialty area, a nurse chooses to work it is important to understand that the nurse is part of a team and collaborative, patient centered care is key to successful outcomes.  

Ones continual efforts towards gaining knowledge and understanding is an ebb and flow process which should be exemplified, offered and supported throughout a career.

Always remember why we entered the field of nursing and whether you are working as a floor nurse, administrator, research or management; the ultimate goal is to support the efforts of your organization in providing evidenced based, goal oriented, patient centered best practice.

An important aspect of being able to play a role in providing care for others is to be mindful; which takes practice and involves taking care of ourselves as well.  We cannot give guidance, offer education and provide hands on care for another if we are not ‘healthy’ ourselves…well, we can, and many times do but it is at those times it is important to acknowledge it, and refocus. 

Last, I have two things. First, you will make a mistake. Granted in nursing, those mistakes can cause harm, but no one is above owning up to one.  It is by recognizing the imperfections in ourselves, systems or processes that things can be identified and thereby initiating a process of change. It takes a much stronger person to acknowledge a mistake than to pass it by or cover it up and it is what you do with that mistake that speaks to character.  Second, laugh and enjoy what you do, be able to laugh at yourself and with others…laughter is good medicine.

Understand and ask questions regarding the policy and procedure guidelines.  Are they supported by the Nurse Practice Act of your state? Knowing policy and procedures will provide confidence and understanding why you are doing something for the patient and what the potential risks are and what the potential outcomes will be. 

If you are unfamiliar with a procedure or medication, stop, research it, know potential side effects and clarify any orders before you administer. Seek the support of seasoned team members to support you during this process.

“It takes a much stronger person to acknowledge a mistake than to pass it by.” -Nadine Miller 
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Jason E. Farley, Ph.D., MPH, ANP-BC, FAAN, AACRN
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC)

1. Show up, participate and be an active member of the research team, even when there is no salary support. It will pay many dividends. 

2. Write as many grants as possible, even small grants.  Diversity in funding portfolio is a great thing and will move your science forward faster. 

3. Integrate your clinical practice, research, and teaching as much as possible.  

4. Be careful not to over commit and under deliver.

5. If a senior faculty member offers salary support to be part of a larger team, take it.  Use the experience as a learning opportunity.  There is always more to learn.

6. Publish, publish, publish.

7. Find and join your professional organization in your area.  This not only offers opportunities for national service, but it will also connect you with colleagues in the field that can serve as great referees and external examiners for your promotion portfolio.

8. Work closely with doctoral students and postdocs if your institution will allow junior faculty to do so.  This offers great opportunities for students and faculty, so find the win-win.

9. Ignore the, “You’re not ready” advice.  Know yourself, know your field and go for that grant, award, recognition when you think you are ready. 

10. Create circumstances that offer both you and the school a win-win.  For example, perhaps that new grant can fund a post-doctoral position or student research assistants. Increasing the opportunities for students is always a good thing and can be an important demonstration of mentorship for you. 

“Ignore the, ‘You’re not ready’ advice.” -Jason E. Farley
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Colleen R. Walsh, DNP, RN, ONC, ONP-C, CNS, ACNP-BC
National Association of Orthopaedic Care (NAON)

You have to love what you do. If you do not get joy out of your work, then you need to find that niche where you will find the passion and drive to be the best you can be.


Michelle Podlesni
National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA)

My best advice for new nurses to be successful in their careers involves two things.  

First, understand the financial, legislative and socio-economic drivers influencing healthcare. By having this knowledge, new nurses can position themselves to take advantage of the unlimited opportunities available to nurses. For example, Value Based Care places a strong emphasis on decreasing readmissions. This has created an increase in nurses involved in the transitional care and increased needs for patient education. Healthcare is ‘big business’ and nurses that are aware of the dynamic forces affecting health care are better able to protect their career’s longevity.

And the second thing is, new nurses best resources are the nurses standing right next to you. Seeing how colleagues that you admire perform their work is invaluable to your learning and incorporating those qualities you would like to emulate.

“Seeing how colleagues that you admire perform their work is invaluable to your learning.” -Michelle Podlesni 
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Denise Knoblauch BSN RN COHN-S/CM
Executive Director
American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN)

Entry level into occupational health nursing generally requires some years of general nursing experience; a background in an emergency room, ambulatory care or orthopedics would be helpful.

Occupational health nursing is a specialty practice that provides for and delivers health and safety programs and services to workers, workers’ population and the community. This practice focuses on preventing illness and injury, promoting and restoring health, and protection from hazards at work. A competent occupational health nurse documents care, identifies the need for case management intervention, has awareness of pertinent regulatory issues which impacts the nursing profession as well as the worksite, coordinates health surveillance and screening, is fiscally responsible, able to provide health and safety training, and performs health needs assessment of the individual as well as for the workforce.

The OHN must be comfortable working independently but be a team player and have a strong knowledge base of environmental assessment and regulatory issues affecting practice. The nurse should strive to obtain certification in occupational health nursing when he or she is qualified which demonstrates additional competency in the field.

“Be comfortable working independently but be a team player and have a strong knowledge base.” -Denise Knoblauch
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Susan Marks, DNP, RN, ANP-C
Past President
Nurse Practitioners Association of Long Island

I recommend your first nursing job should include your basic nuts and bolts experience of medical patients. Whether in an acute, rehab or long-term care setting, gaining this experience with the basic chronic morbidities and comorbidities will allow you to build up to care for patients in any specialty and setting you may choose.

Gaining your foundational expertise with common medications and acute on chronic management is a critical component of good nursing.

As nurses, we see more and more complex medical issues in all patient populations. Once you have honed your nursing skills and developed your nursing confidence in excellent patient care, this solid toolbox of basic medical expertise will be your career foundation to work from.

It is also essential to continue reading and studying, learning new care protocols and always looking up anything you are not familiar with or don’t clearly recall. It is every nurse’s professional responsibility to always remain abreast of anything that affects the care and safety of their patients. As a nurse, you will be a lifelong learner. Identify your best resources and become comfortable with using then often.

“Your first nursing job should include your basic nuts and bolts experience of medical patients.” -Susan Marks
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Nancy Lawton, MN, ARNP, FNP
ARNPs United of Washington State

There are many, varied opportunities, think about what you love and target that for what you want to do; if you love kids, look for pediatrics, if you love the excitement of critical decision making, look at intensive or emergency care. Listen to your heart. 

You won’t know everything upon graduation and you will learn quickly at your new job. Don’t be afraid, be kind to yourself, and seek mentors who are excited to help you learn. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you don’t know everything– use your newness to seek the best resources to enhance your training.

Keep learning – a benefit of nursing is the range of what is available – work with kids or adults or elderly or women’s health or gender non-conforming, in acute or urgent or long-term care facilities, work overseas in foreign countries doing refugee relief or training in the global south – over the course of your career you can do it all.

After you have gained mastery, it’s your turn to lead – nurse leaders need to represent us in our workplace, in government, and in our communities.

“Don’t be afraid, be kind to yourself, and seek mentors who are excited to help you learn.” -Nancy Lawton
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Gulf Coast Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association

Don’t be lazy or apathetic! Try to learn one new thing every day because no one knows everything. We tend to get comfortable in our roles and then we get lazy, bored and apathetic.

The great thing about nursing is that you can work anywhere in the world and there are so many ways to serve patients in a variety of settings. The new nurses I meet today are apathetic and seem to have no desire to learn new things because they are just glad to be out of school. Then they learn shortcuts from old nurses and that does not translate into good care.

In the past 35 years, I have changed fields almost every 2 years to push myself to learn something new. Now I work for myself and make a great living with great quality of life. Anyone can do it if they work hard, show initiative and stay educated.

“Try to learn one new thing everyday because no one knows everything.” -Lisa Ginapp
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Lorraine Bock, DNP, ENP-C, FNP-C, PHRN, CEN, FAANP
Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners

Nursing is a dynamic field with many opportunities for growth, job satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. New nurses will face many obstacles during their first year and may even question their decision to become a nurse.

It is well documented that “eating our young” is a phenomenon that is prevalent in some institutions. This can color a new nurse’s perspective on the choice to become a nurse and sometimes cause them to leave the field.

While this negativity occurs in some places, new nurses can avoid becoming a victim by talking honestly with the interviewer about how the institution addresses this, speaking with the preceptor nurses on the floor(s) where they might be working, and to recent new hires about their experiences.

Choose an institution that supports new nurses, if they have a new nurse internship take advantage of it, the institution is actively involved in mentoring new nurses and wants you to be successful.

Find a good mentor early in your career and use that person to find support, encouragement, and direction during your first year or two out of school. Nursing is the best profession in the world and you have chosen wisely, use the assessment skills you have learned to make a good choice for your first job. After 22 years of nursing, I still contact my mentor for support.

Find a good mentor early in your career and use that person to find support, encouragement, and direction. -Lorraine Bock
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Thomas E Stenvig, Ph.D., MPH, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
South Dakota Nurses Foundation

As best advice for new nurses who want a successful career, several thoughts come to mind.

First, recognize that your current educational credential should not be an end point, it should be the start of an educational journey that spans your entire career.

Being a nurse requires a commitment to lifelong learning. It is also important to consider and prioritize advanced education early in your career before other forces in life interfere. Education always entails sacrifice, but it also opens doors to personal and professional growth and unseen opportunities often unrealized until after the education is completed. 

Second, get involved in your profession outside of your employment, including membership in professional organizations. It is unfortunate many nurses don’t belong to anything, which is a sad commentary about their professionalism suggesting nursing is only a job.

Professional organizations provide opportunities for continuing professional education, mentorship, networking, and leadership development. Like many things in life, by getting involved you will reap rewards according to how much effort you decide to invest.

Further, through membership in professional organizations, we can advocate for nursing as a profession more effectively than what anyone can do as an individual.

“Consider and prioritize advanced education early in your career before other forces in life interfere.” -Thomas E Stenvig
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Brandy McCrary, NP
Vice President
South Georgia Association of Nurse Practitioners

The best advice I can offer new graduates pursuing a nursing career is to continue to learn and ask questions. The power in taking care of people is remembering that diseases/complications/illnesses affect people very differently.

Broaden your career by wanting to learn and not getting into a routine of treating everyone the same. If you question in your mind then seek guidance and direction for a solution.

“The power in taking care of people is remembering that diseases/complications/illnesses affects people very differently.” -Brandy McCrary
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Tresa Zielinski, DNP, RN, APN-NP, CPNP-PC
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

When caring for a patient, you are not only caring for them but also their family and loved ones.

When going to work, think of what you want the first impression of you to be. You only have one chance.  Think of what you may need to tell or provide for a family.  

Say yes to opportunities that are presented to you. You will be surprised at what you can do when nudged in the right direction. Sometimes we all need to be challenged.

Consider a job to be a two-year commitment. The first year you learn how to do a job and the second year you learn how to do it well.

When going for a job, dress for the job you want not the one you are interviewing for.

“The first year you learn how to do a job and the second year you learn how to do it well.” -Tresa Zielinski
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Franchesca Sevigny
Student Nurses Association of Rhode Island

Remember to take care of yourself. Acknowledge and accept personal limits because that in itself reminds us that we are human. As much as we advocate for our patients to care for themselves and promote lifestyle changes, we must also do the same for ourselves. We can speak what is and what isn’t, but our actions are far greater and that’s what patients will remember.

“Acknowledge and accept personal limits because that in itself reminds us that we are human.” -Franchesca Sevigny
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Kathy K Hager, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, CDE,
Kentucky Nurses Association

Learn as much as you can and love something about every person you touch. Once you feel that you have a good grasp of what you know, share it with every nurse and person who comes under your care. Your power will grow as you empower others.  Great leaders are walking behind the people they empower. 

Karen Myers, ARNP, FNP-BC
The Tallahassee Area Council of Advanced Practice Nurses

The best advice I can give to any nurse is to keep your options open.

There are so many jobs related to a career in nursing.  I should know, I have had many, and been successful in each. 

HoChong Gilles, RN, MS, FNP-C
Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners

The best advice for new nurses who want a successful career in nursing is to be proactive in developing strong leadership skills and invest in professional relationships.

You must commit to life-long learning after graduation by participating in continuing education and self-directed learning to enhance clinical growth and expertise. Effective leadership skills will evolve from active participation in personal and professional development.

Recognize and grasp opportunities to serve in leadership positions will result in meaningful connections and interdisciplinary collaboration needed to navigate throughout our increasingly complex health care system.  Determine your priorities and set specific goals while achieving a healthy balance managing your personal and professional life.

You will come across many mentors that will empower and assist you in achieving your highest potential. Nurture these professional and personal relationships for needed assistance and guidance along your future career path. Leadership skills and valuable relationships can promote a rewarding and successful career in the most trusted profession of nursing. Good luck!

“Effective leadership skills will evolve from active participation in personal and professional development.” -HoChong Gilles
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Terry Reese, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Missouri Nurses Association

One of the first things new nurses should do is join their professional association. The benefits are numerous to new and seasoned nurses alike but especially beneficial to new nurses. These benefits include:

Professional Development - by providing you workshops, conferences, webinars, publications, updates on industry trends and legislation, keeping you in the mainstream.

Mentoring - through the pairing of young/new professionals with more seasoned professionals providing guidance and support during those early professional development years.

Networking - providing you with opportunities to mix and mingle with peers, share best practices, develop professional contacts and build friendships.

Job Opportunities - through job listings provided by the Association in publications as well as online.

Resume Enhancement - Membership in your professional association shows potential employers you are dedicated to your profession.

Be a Contributor -  your membership dues help to maintain a healthy profession.

Become certified in the area of nursing in which you thrive and continue to enhance your education through the lifelong learning activities of continuing education.  These two things show commitment and drive that you hold yourself to a high standard not only to your employer but also to your patients and colleagues.

“Become certified in the area of nursing in which you thrive.” -Terry Reese
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John Armelagos, RN
Michigan Nurses Association

My advice to new RN’s is that you don’t have to go it alone to improve your working conditions. The best way to ensure that staffing levels are sufficient to deliver quality care, that RN’s are not forced to work mandatory overtime, and that RN’s have a voice in their workplace is to organize by forming a union. A union is simply an organized association of workers, often in a trade or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

Collective bargaining enhances the ability for RN’s to achieve their professional goals such as patient advocacy, RN clinical autonomy, and practice-environment improvement.   

For example, some RN collective bargaining Agreements contain provisions that govern RN-patient workload limits, ensure training and education when new technology or policies are introduced, or provide objectivity and review when promotional opportunities occur.

Collective bargaining also provides RN’s with workplace stability by establishing a formal and fair process to resolve disputes when those disputes occur.

Many unions also function as a professional association, offering CE’s, education, and opportunities to network with other RN’s.

If your workplace doesn’t have a union, consider organizing one. Nurses and our profession are stronger when we organize and unite.

“Nurses and our profession are stronger when we organize and unite.” -John Armelagos
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E. Haley Vance, DNP, APRN, CPNP-AC
Tennessee Nurses Association

As a beginner nurse, I believe one of the most important things you should do is to identify a nursing mentor who can help you grow in your nursing career. Graduating from nursing school is a huge accomplishment, but it is just the beginning. Having a nursing mentor allows you to gain knowledge and insight into the nursing profession from someone who has experienced this first hand. Your mentor is someone that you can go to with questions, with concerns, or maybe just to vent about your day. Your nursing mentor should be someone who challenges you to be the best and to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. Hands down, I would not be where I am today without the guidance and support of my nursing mentors.

“Your nursing mentor should be someone who challenges you to be the best.” -E. Haley Vance
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Betsy M. Snook, MEd, BSN, RN
Chief Executive Officer
Pennsylvania State Nurses Association

My best advice for new nurses who want a successful nursing career is to take your time finding your first and successive jobs by assessing the organizational culture.  One must find an organization with similar values so that one might have a successful, productive and rewarding work experience. This can be done at the interview process by listening for keywords that are used often, assess if the interviewer is prepared, are they on-time, how are they treating you during the interview, etc. One can also ask questions about the organization by asking them to describe the culture, leadership and management styles, asking about attitudes towards continuing education or whatever is important to the prospective employee- it may be innovation. Since we all have to work, one should be sure that the culture that they enter into fits with their values, then going to work each day is a pleasure.

“Take your time finding your first and successive jobs by assessing the organizational culture.” - Betsy M. Snook
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Mona Cheung FNP
North Texas Nurse Practitioner Association

As a graduate nurse, it is best to start your career in a hospital where training and mentoring is provided.

These hospitals typically provide excellent comprehensive training of skills a student nurse may never be exposed to.

Don’t be afraid of change try different areas of nursing until you find your niche. 

Be a part of your community and professional organization - these will help build your resume.

Take part in continuing education and getting credentialed in your area of specialty. 

Lastly, adopt a good attitude towards learning new procedures, devices, and new protocols. Be a team player and step up to volunteer.

“Start your career in a hospital where training and mentoring is provided.” -Mona Cheung
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Susan Nokleby, MS, RN, LSN, NCSN
School Nurse Organization of Minnesota

Explore the different areas of nursing and find the area you are most passionate about. Nursing allows flexibility as it covers a broad spectrum from one on one care to education and research. Continue with your education through academic venues as well as meaningful conferences. Become nationally certified in your area of expertise. Become involved with your local, state, and national organizations. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Take your place in a wonderful, rewarding healthcare profession.

“Explore the different areas of nursing and find the area you are most passionate about.” -Susan Nokleby
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Lynley Fow, MN, ARNP
Puget Sound Oncology Nursing Society

“When I think about all the patients and their loved ones that I have worked with over the years, I know most of them don’t remember me nor I them. But I do know that I gave a little piece of myself to each of them and they to me and those threads make up the beautiful tapestry in my mind that is my career in nursing.” -Donna Wilk Cardillo

I love this quote because it is so true of oncology nurses. In order to be successful in oncology, you have to give something of yourself, because you spend a lot of time with your patients and their families. You really have to love them and get to know them to overlook the big picture- they may die despite every best effort and drug regimen you deliver. It is these patients and families that will teach you how to be the best nurse possible. And, what you give to these patients, you will get more in return. That is what is rewarding about oncology.

“In order to be successful in oncology, you have to give something of yourself.” - Lynley Fow
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Judy Schmidt, RN, MSN, ONC, CCRN
New Jersey State Nurses Association

The first piece of my advice for new nurses who want to have a successful career in nursing is to always remain open-minded and flexible in your career decisions. Health care is a very dynamic field and is going through tremendous changes. A new nurse needs to think beyond traditional roles in the acute care setting and explore opportunities that will be emerging in the community setting. Second, educational advancement is a priority. Don’t be satisfied with your initial degree; continue to pursue advanced education and continuing education in your field of interest. Lastly, be a member of your professional organization. As a nurse, you have a responsibility to your profession and your community that appropriate health care policies are developed and utilized. Your professional organizations are already involved in that policy development and can use your input.

“Always remain open minded and flexible in your career decisions.” -Judy Schmidt
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Mark Bielawski, APRN
The Connecticut Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Society

To unlock your full potential in nursing, use the following keys.

1) Find a purpose. Money, hours, and benefits are important, but if you are not passionate about your position it will be harder to handle the stress and daily grind, leading to burnout. Seek a balance between financial compensation and personal satisfaction.

2) Find the right people. Nursing can be a challenge, so search for employers and mentors that care about your happiness both inside and outside of work. When interviewing ask for the contact information of several employees and speak to them privately about their experiences. Also, inquire about the length and makeup of your orientation as good training can be the difference between success and failure. Find a mentor who you trust and who supports you, and remember to help them in return. If you had a great mentor, you should eventually become a great mentor to someone who needs it.

3) Find the right progression. Many nurses eventually want to advance their careers by returning to school, but sometimes they find out too late that they chose the wrong degree and career. Be sure to ask questions of nurses with experience in the degree and area you are considering; be sure to shadow beforehand; finally be sure that no one forces you into something you are not passionate about.

“Search for employers and mentors that care about your happiness both inside and outside of work.” -Mark Bielawski
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Deb Tauer, LPN 
Licensed Practical Nurses Association

As an LPN my best advice for a new nurse is to choose the career and field not just for finances but because you have a passion and want to care for people. All nursing careers are not for everyone. If you choose to be an LPN be proud of your role. It takes a team to care for patients in all settings and the LPN role is as vital as any other role. If you choose a nursing career you must also be aware that you will never stop learning. No two patients or clients are alike and caring for them and their families are never the same. Technology has taken over the nursing profession, computer documentation, medication scanning, fingerprint, and retinol technology evolve daily yet if you don’t want the personal experiences with the patients, get another job because the direct care in all settings has to be done by a professional and dedicated nurse. There are new challenges and rewards daily and no matter how good you think you are, never stop learning.

“No two patients or clients are alike and caring for them and their families are never the same.” -Deb Tauer
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