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How to Get Promoted in a Nursing Job

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Now that you're in a nursing role, the next logical step is promotion. Your primary step in getting promoted is to let your supervisor, mentor or preceptor know that you're interested in career advancement and mobility. Don't be shy about your professional development -- express your desire to expand your knowledge base and clinical expertise. Also, sharing your career goals and aspirations with your charge nurse or hospital administrator can open up a career track for lateral moves and promotions to help you reach your ultimate goal.

Earn an Advanced Degree

Getting promoted depends on how much you're worth to your employer. An effective way to increase your value to the organization is to acquire an advanced degree and gain additional credentials in a specialty area, such as psychiatric nursing, gerontology or pediatrics. For example, clinical nurse specialists hold a master's degree or doctorate and they have advanced expertise in any number of clinical areas that match their professional development plans. Explore programs that fit your work schedule and lifestyle and ask your current employer about tuition assistance, reimbursement programs or even in-house leadership development training.

Volunteer for Work

Demonstrate your reliability and your aptitude for taking on more responsibility. For example, if you're currently a staff nurse and you want to be promoted to a charge nurse position, make yourself available for additional work. If you work the evening shift and the hospital needs day shift volunteers, do so as long as you can handle the extra work without it negatively affecting your performance. Avoid working additional hours just to show that you're available any time of the day and refrain from additional hours if it will diminish your functionality. The rationale is that when positions become vacant on other shifts, you can position yourself as a strong candidate for promotional opportunities if you're familiar with round-the-clock operations and staff who work those shifts.

Get Professional Help

Professional help means aligning yourself with someone who will be your mentor or guide. If your employer has a formal mentor-protegee program, determine how to get involved and begin thinking about your professional goals. SMART goals, a concept attributed to consultants Kenneth H. Blanchard and Paul Hersey for improving management effective, refer to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Start working on your SMART goals before you meet with your mentor. For example, if you want to become a psychiatric charge nurse, that's a specific goal and it's measurable because you can identify the steps, education and credentials you need to reach the goal. In addition, it's attainable because you're currently in the nursing field and relevant because it's a nursing specialty well within your reach. Create timely or time-specific goals through establishing milestones for professional achievements.

Expand Professional and Social Networks

Develop an online presence through participating in nursing forums to exchange ideas and professional development plans with other nurses. Get your name circulating among the right people without jeopardizing your current employment. Connect with nurses on your current level and nurses who are at the level where you aspire to be to make the necessary contacts future promotional opportunities. If you're tech-savvy, offer to moderate forums or conduct independent research and submit articles about nursing trends to established blogs or scholarly nursing practice journals.

Ask for Feedback

Whenever you apply for promotional opportunities, whether with your current employer or opportunities with other employers, ask the recruiters and hiring managers for feedback. Explain the careers goals you established and politely ask for advice on how to present your qualifications in the best possible light so that you become a sought-after candidate. Obviously, you'll ask for feedback from hiring managers or recruiters with employers where you weren't the final choice. But if you aren't too demanding and ask for a reasonable amount of feedback, you'll find that they'll help you prepare for your next opportunity.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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