For nurses looking to climb the career ladder, there are more opportunities than ever to move into leadership roles like nurse supervisors, unit managers, doctors of nursing, and even executives. But there’s also more competition than ever for these jobs! With that in mind, what should you know before pursuing nursing leadership positions, and how can you make sure you’re ready to land the job you want?
7 Tips for Landing Nursing Leadership Positions
Of course, every nurse is a leader, to some extent. And that’s why landing nursing leadership positions means setting yourself apart from all the others and making yourself stand out as a leader to employers you hope to work with.
Especially during Women’s History Month, we want to support nursing professionals who want to grow their careers into the leadership roles they deserve. And as the nation’s leading nurse job network, we’ve got the expertise to do just that. Read on for our rundown of tips designed to help you achieve the career in leadership that you deserve.
#1: Join a community
Joining a nursing association or organization is an ideal first step on the road to leadership, and a great way to get exposure to new people and new opportunities. Joining a group that’s applicable to your specialty is essential for keeping up with leadership best practices and opportunities in leadership, advocacy, and activism, as well as insights into getting the career you want.
Some groups like Sigma and the American Nurses Association (ANA) are appropriate for any nurse to join. Others will be more relevant depending on your specialty or the area where you have the most experience, like the Emergency Nursing Association (ENA), National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and so many more.
> Pro tip: You should strongly consider joining the state association where you’re licensed. You can find a list of all state associations here.
#2: Engage in Career learning and development opportunities
Continuing education (CE) is necessary to maintain a nursing license in most states. But even when it isn’t, it’s a good idea to build new skills and experience. It shows potential employers that you’re not just willing to learn, but are positively motivated to do so.
Besides taking specific courses on management, nurses looking to become leaders should also pursue a variety of other certifications. After all, leaders should be knowledgeable about the different types of skills, best practices, and technology affecting day-to-day care, particularly in their specialty or chosen setting.
> Pro tip: You can check to see your state’s CE requirements here.
#3: Consider pursuing an advanced degree
Of course, if you’re really set on moving into nursing leadership positions, you may want to go beyond CE and pursue an advanced degree, such as a doctorate in nursing or nurse practitioner. In addition to more opportunities in nurse management, higher education opens the door to positions like research managers, program directors, health policy analysts, and even leadership executive positions.
> Pro tip: When it comes to higher learning, it’s best to work backward. First, choose the ideal job you want in the future. Then, work with a counselor or mentor to determine the educational path that the job requires.
#4: Focus on communication and teamwork
Whether it’s for a leadership role or not, almost every nurse job listing today emphasizes the need to have great communication skills. Similarly, virtually every nursing role requires teamwork, and the professionals who can demonstrate specific skills in this area — or who have a reputation for doing so — will have a clear advantage when they’re in the running for competitive nursing leadership positions.
> Pro tip: When working on your communication skills, don’t forget to develop your written as well as verbal skills. If you’re not sure where to begin, check to see if there are writing, speaking, or team-building classes offered at your local community center or college.
There’s no shortage of nursing conferences, workshops, webinars, seminars, and other events to attend, live and virtual, national and international. Both physical and online events provide the chance to get some insider expertise, and sometimes to ask direct questions from other nursing leaders. Physical conferences and events also provide this benefit, along with a place to meet and talk with recruiters to get a better understanding of what qualities they’re seeking when filling nursing leadership positions.
> Pro tip: There are a few events that are especially useful for nurses aspiring to be leaders, such as the Nursing Leadership Summit or the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) Annual Conference.
#6: Find a mentor
More and more healthcare employers today offer mentorship programs to help connect more experienced leaders with those in search of some guidance and expertise. Mentoring opportunities can also be found within nurse associations, or at conferences. If you don’t have a mechanism for connecting with a mentor, consider building relationships with people you admire at work — but do so tactfully! Don’t be pushy, presumptuous, or demanding when approaching a potential mentor.
> Pro tip: It’s all about “paying it forward” when it comes to mentorships. So, make it clear that you consider it your duty to maintain the cycle of mentorship later in your career, and you may find that people are more likely to help you out.
We know how hard it is for busy working nurses to find time to volunteer. But those who do manage to do carve out the time for it can see some pretty big rewards. It can give your CV truly valuable new skills and experience, for instance. Volunteering could also lead to new connections and career opportunities, and valuable references to call upon when you’re actively pursuing nursing leadership positions.
> Related: What to wear for your next nursing interview
Stay on Top of Nursing Leadership Positions with CareerStaff
In the market for new nursing leadership positions? We’re standing by to help you achieve the career of your dreams. You can find more career info for nurses here, or check out all of our open nursing jobs now. Or, fill out a quick application and a CareerStaff recruiter will reach out to you with opportunities.