How to Spring Clean Your Nursing Career
by Diana L. Gallagher MS, RN, CWOCN, CFCN
A glance out my sunroom window belies the simple fact that spring is coming. It has been a long and difficult winter for so many, but the calendar promises that warm weather will soon replace the gray cold, mounds of snow, and glistening ice. It will be an especially welcome change after this winter.
Spring is a time of renewal for nature. The warmth of the sun, smell of freshly mown grass, and the determination of spring flowers to raise their petals brightens our spirits. It is a time of renewal for all of us as well. For some of us, spring cleaning is a ritual that we go through every year. We scrub winter's grime from our windows, we launder curtains and bed linens, we clean carpets, reorganize our "junk drawers", donate items that we no longer need to charity, and apply a fresh coat of wax to floors. The reward for our hard work is a sense of satisfaction as everything is neat, clean, and orderly.
For most, spring cleaning is a ritual; we do it every year. We all know when it is time to spring clean our homes, after all, the calendar guides us. How many of us, however, take the time or make the effort to spring clean our careers and our professional lives?
Keeping Current with Advancements in Patient Care
Nursing is a dynamic profession that is constantly changing. Change is the one thing that is guaranteed in nursing. Because of research and advances in practice, procedures and standards are continually evolving. Even practices that were once regarded as textbook standards have changed, and in some cases they have done a total turnaround.
For example, the textbook standard for patient care prior to an elective bowel surgery used to be a complete bowel cleanse. Research has proven that doing a bowel cleanse held no benefits in reduced complications or length of stay. We used to firmly believe that following that same elective bowel surgery, the diet should be slowly advanced beginning with clear liquids. That practice has also been disproved as evidence has shown that a low residue diet yielded less complications and shorter length of stays.
There is no question that nursing is changing; nurses have a personal responsibility to keep pace. Keeping pace means that we need to periodically do some of that spring cleaning.
Standards of Ethics in Nursing: Promoting Your Own Health and Safety
The 3.1 million nurses represented by the American Nurses Association (ANA) have a long history of providing the public with the highest level of care. Year after year, nurses earn the status of being the most trustworthy profession. Nurses not only deliver the best care but also maintain the highest ethical standards. Nursing is not an easy career, but there is no career that is any more rewarding. For nursing to continue to reward us with all that it has to offer, we have to give a little too. We need to sweep away the old and the outdated, and let in the new.
In the ANA's newly revised Standards of Ethics, Provision #5 addresses that nurses owe themselves the same high level of care that they offer to patients on a daily basis. As a whole, nurses tend to place their needs last. This standard outlines that we each have a responsibility to promote our own health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue our personal and professional growth. We owe it to ourselves, our families, our patients, and our careers to take Provision #5 seriously. We have to take good care of ourselves in order to take good care of others.
In the same revised standards, Provision #7 addresses that nurses in all roles and settings have a responsibility to advance the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development and the generation of both nursing and health policy. Adhering to these two provisions would be very difficult to do without a little bit of spring cleaning.
It is not enough to go to work and provide quality, compassionate patient care. We all know nurses who do just that. They do that shift after shift, and year after year. They may start off great but time will take its toll, just like winter. We owe ourselves, our families, and our patients a lot more than that. We owe ourselves some spring cleaning. We deserve to be renewed and rejuvenated; we are entitled to be current in our practice, and we should to be excited about nursing.
Remember how you felt when you got that first job? If you were like most of us, you were filled with nervous energy, years of knowledge bouncing around your mind, and a determination to make a difference. Everyone deserves to feel excited and engaged in nursing…everyone benefits when a nurse is excited and engaged about nursing.
Creating a Resume and Curriculum Vitae of Your Nursing Experience
Most people never bother to create or update a resume unless they are looking for a new job. Everyone should have a current resume in both a one page and longer version. As you develop experience and your resume builds, you need to create a curriculum vitae. Spring cleaning is a time to develop and update your resume and curriculum vitae. Update expiration dates, add new accomplishments, and take pride in all that you have done in the last year. You do not need to find a new job but you should continually make your job new.
To maintain the excitement that you felt with your first job, you need to continue to learn. Learning feeds that excitement and helps keep you engaged. Conferences are a great way to assure continued learning, network with others, and advance your career. Attending conferences is a time to renew. Renewal is integral to spring cleaning. Most nurses do not enter the profession with a business background but you need to understand that your career is your business. It is your job to negotiate and plan for what you need to be successful. You need to attend a regional or national conference at least once a year. Make it happen. Some years it may be on your own dime, but the rewards are worth the investment.
Invest in your professional growth. Find that conference. Join an association. Subscribe to a journal. Start a journal club. Expand your career. Seek a specialty. Earn a certification.
The world is yours to claim. Just allow yourself the time to do a bit of spring cleaning on your career. It will shine as brightly as freshly cleaned windows on a sunny spring day.
About the Author
Diana Gallagher has over 30 years of nursing experience with a strong focus in wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nursing. As one of the early leaders driving certification in foot care nursing, she embraces a holistic nursing model. A comprehensive, head to toe assessment is key in developing an individualized plan of care.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.