How to Get the Most Success in Your Nursing Career

Nursing is a very rewarding career with lots of opportunities to care for others and even ensure the health and wellbeing of whole families and communities. It is also full of career opportunities for those who choose to pursue them. Being successful as a nurse can entail getting the most out of your work every day so you are satisfied in knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life. It can also mean advancing in your career as you get more experience. This article will focus on some things you can do to get success in both areas.

Have Career and Advancement Goals

All careers in healthcare require that you commit to being a lifelong learner. Stagnation is never a good thing because things get outdated very fast in medicine, and you have to always be in step with these changes as they happen. One of the best ways to do this is to have goals, both for learning and your career.

You should check in with yourself at given intervals – these will vary from person to person – to see how well you are doing. You should do this outside the normal annual evaluation you undergo at work because this is a personal assessment.

Check that you are keeping up with what is happening in the medical world as well as if you are satisfied with your job and getting what you want out of it. Setting, meeting, and exceeding your goals will help you be a more successful nurse as doing so makes you a valuable asset and a better nurse, too.

Clarify What You Are Unsure About

As mentioned, nursing and medicine are always changing, which makes it more challenging to keep up with best practices and innovations. It is important to ask questions about treatments, procedures, medications, and best practices any time you are unsure about something. Granted, no one wants to feel inadequate in front of their peers, but your seniors might appreciate the initiative and see that you are trying to do the best you can for your patients. 

Asking questions is not only a great way of learning new things but is also a great way of refreshing your memory and confirming what you already know. When you do, you also gain confidence in knowing you are doing things the right way. This confidence often translates to better outcomes for patients.

Support Peers and Colleagues

Nursing, and more broadly medicine, is a collaborative effort. It takes everyone from nurses to physicians to ensure the best outcomes for patients. Because of this, you should become a resource by always offering help whenever you can. Try to also volunteer for additional responsibilities and respect your peers and colleagues.

Do note that this does not mean that you give yourself wholly to your nursing career and forget about your wellbeing. It only means being supportive and available when your peers and colleagues need you.


One of the biggest advantages of pursuing a career in nursing is that there are numerous career paths to choose from depending on your preferences. These career options become available through either specialization or advancing your education.

Specialization is a process where you complete a certification in a specific area of nursing. There are about a hundred specializations, but some notable ones include emergency, surgery, geriatric, cardiac, renal, nurse specialists, critical care nursing, and oncology nursing.

All of these require that you complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and be a registered nurse. Do note that the responsibilities you have in each of these roles will depend on the state you are in and the type of healthcare facility you work for.

Complete Advanced Degrees

Advancing your education in nursing usually entails following one of two paths: earning a master’s degree or completing a doctorate program. You can also complete a master’s degree before enrolling in a doctorate program and doing so can shorten the amount of time it takes to complete the doctorate.

Some roles and specialties you get access to include nurse anesthetists, mental health nursing, and nursing practice. Becoming a family nurse practitioner is a great option too and is tailored for nurses who want to make a difference beyond the bedside.

There are dedicated online Family Nurse Practitioner programs available for nurses who want to get into this advanced specialization. Family practitioner nurses can open their own practices and work without the direct supervision of a doctor depending on the state. The autonomy that comes with doing so can be liberating for nurses who are made for it and who can handle leadership positions.

Create a Professional Network

Creating a professional network can have a lot of benefits in your career, and not just in nursing. Creating a network can be a great way of staying informed of what is happening in nursing and medicine in general. The people in your network will sometimes have access to information you do not yet have access to and just being around or in touch with them will give you the same insight.

Another reason for creating a professional network is for career advancement. You might want a promotion down the road, think of switching up your career, or even think of moving across the country for a change of scenery. With a professional network, you can find out what opportunities are available and where they are.

If you use your professional connections to plan your future, you might be surprised at where your career takes you and how much success you enjoy.

Pursue Other Forms of Professional Development

Earning certifications, completing advanced degrees, and creating a professional network are all great ways of pursuing professional development, but there are other ways of doing so. These include seminars, workshops, reading academic literature, listening to podcasts, and attending conferences. In addition to helping you gain knowledge, they can also be a way of connecting with other professionals which also benefits your professional network.

Be More Efficient

This has to do with finding success in your day-to-day tasks. As a nurse, you will usually have a lot of things to do, usually at the same time. It can be challenging to remain efficient when you have so much coming at you, usually from different directions. Paying attention to everything also becomes more challenging.

To increase efficiency, segment your tasks. You do this by grouping similar tasks into distinct categories that you can take care of individually. Once you complete the tasks in one category, you move on to tasks in the other, and so on. Such segmentation can save you a lot of time, reduce mistakes, ensure you prioritize the most important tasks first, and make you more effective overall. This improved efficiency will benefit you, your manager or boss, as well as your patients. As a result, you will be regarded as a better nurse overall.

Be More Organized

While being more organized can make you more efficient, we are talking more broadly about your time. Being more organized will help you manage your time better and allow you to do more with the time you have. With how much you have to do with the limited time you have as a nurse, you should ensure each minute is utilized as productively as possible. 

Organizational skills are a key competency that can be honed and developed over time much like you can with other skills. Try to find tools and systems that can help you be more organized in the different things you do. If you do have colleagues that you deem to be very organized, you could talk to them to find out what they do to remain so organized. They might have some ideas that you can incorporate into your life and work.

Speak Up

New nurses are guilty of not speaking up when they should. For example, they accept work schedules without asking for flexibility even in cases where there is some and where the schedule might impact their lives and health negatively. Bottling up these feelings might be a way of coping and avoiding conflict, but it will be bad for you. You are likely to end up more stressed and increase the risk of burnout by accepting things as they are. 

Although you should not be confrontational with your bosses, it is important to know when to speak up so things can tilt somewhat in your favor.

Focus on the Positives

The sad reality of nursing is that some things will go wrong. It might have to do with a patient, the facility you work for, or in your personal life. A lot of people tend to focus on the negatives. Doing so weighs you down, reducing your utility and productivity, and impacting the success of everything you do.

Instead of focusing on the negatives all the time, also try to focus on the positives. What good things have happened or are happening in your life? What is working? Where have you thrived lately? When you focus on positives, you are better able to deal with negatives, move on and create better positive experiences in your life.

Take Care of Yourself

As mentioned, stress and burnout are serious issues among nurses. Many new nurses are at risk of both because they usually put their work before themselves. They work long hours, sleep little, and generally do not take care of themselves. You should learn to take care of yourself, especially in a field that is as demanding as nursing is. Start by planning and eating complete meals. With how much nurses have to do, this might seem like a big ask.

You will likely miss a meal from time to time but grab a healthy meal instead of foods and drinks full of sugar and caffeine when you finally have time.  While you might feel more energetic for a few hours, the crash that comes afterward will not be worth it. You also impair your ability to do your job well if this is what you consume instead of eating complete meals.

Try to prepare or carry snacks you can consume in about five minutes when you are busy, and about ten minutes when you are not. Granola bars, fruit, and a mix of nuts work really well.

Hydrate Regularly

This also ties into taking care of yourself. It is important to remember to hydrate as being hydrated has been shown to have a positive impact on critical thinking and decision-making, both of which are important when caring for patients.

It is crucial to avoid drinks that will dehydrate you or are diuretic in nature. These include tea, coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks. If you have to take any of them, do so in moderation and drink enough water to keep things balanced. 

Spend Quality Time Outside Work

This might seem counterintuitive especially when you are new and trying to build a career in nursing. However, it is crucial for helping you maintain physical and mental wellbeing. By reducing stress and helping prevent burnout, spending quality time away from work will help you perform better as a nurse.

Spending time with friends and family, pursuing hobbies, exercising, or even traveling can all help ease mental, physical, and emotional burdens. These activities also have the added benefit of helping you feel happier and more satisfied with your life overall. 

Get a Mentor

If your hospital or workplace has mentorship programs, you should join them. These programs allow you to work alongside more experienced nurses so you can learn from them. A mentor can also be someone that you can talk to when things get tough, and they can also help with career advancement by guiding you and giving you useful advice. They will also give you feedback so you can do better.

Nurses can be very successful in their day-to-day roles and responsibilities as well as their careers overall. The ideas we have discovered above are meant to help new and experienced nurses with career success, especially if they want a long future in nursing.