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  • Nursing careers - endless possibilities for goal setters

    Author: Haley Williams

Nursing is a career with unlimited opportunities and endless possibilities and pathways, which makes goal setting and reflection critical to job satisfaction. But how do nurses set and achieve goals in a profession that’s constantly changing?

There is the perception of nursing as a hands-on profession, but nursing can lead to roles in administration, policy, education and even law, according to Associate Professor Marion Towner RN, who says the prospects are endless.

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“The hands-on career offers pathways for promotion where you get to lead the delivery of patient care, such as a clinical nurse, nurse manager, nurse educator or nursing director.

“You can move between clinical environments until you find your comfort zone or your next challenge.”

The ability to work anywhere allows nurses to explore their passions, whether in a traditional hospital setting or in research or hospitality, explains Associate Professor Marion Towner, RN.

“You can be a nurse in any area in which health care is delivered. This can be in hospitals, communities, residential aged care, supported living, universities or colleges, non-government organisations, defence forces, prisons or even cruise ships.

“The qualification itself is usually recognised across the world, and of course, this means that you can experience other cultures and countries as part of your nursing career.”

The only constant in health care is constant change, says Associate Professor Towner RN, which means goal setting and professional development are vital to any career in nursing.

“Nursing is a career where you are a lifelong learner. In whatever environment you practice, healthcare delivery is constantly changing. Sometimes, the changes are in technology, sometimes in how care is delivered, and other times in what constitutes good nursing practice.

“Sometimes nurses drive this either from the bedside or by nursing research, which strives to find solutions to problems that confront nurses and patients, that are evidence-based and improve health outcomes.”

Nursing is also a platform to many other careers, using knowledge gained to contribute to the health and healthcare of the wider public.

“[There are] nurses who are Chief Executives of major health services, barristers specialising in healthcare issues, health policymakers at government level, politicians, business owners and entrepreneurs.”

What’s universal in nursing is the sense of personal reward of being one of the most trusted professions.

“I can think of no better career that gives you the personal reward of making a real difference in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable.

“This can be the best or worst time of someone’s life. This means the work is challenging, and you must make multiple complex decisions, often in a limited time.”

Due to a constantly evolving professional platform, professional development and goal setting are crucial, but even these plans must be flexible.

“Goals are important because nursing is a profession that changes rapidly despite the public perception of nursing reflective of Florence Nightingale’s era – yes, some of our work is still driven by this era.

“We change because the challenges of delivering nursing change. I am a strong believer in goals. However, nursing is so dynamic that the path to achieving goals can often lead to goals changing over time. So, be open to this; otherwise, you can miss other opportunities.

“Set goals but regularly reflect on them – are they still relevant? Are your strategies to achieve them still going to work? And importantly, you need to share your goals and aspirations with those who can help you achieve them.”

So, how do nurses set goals when the healthcare environment and their role are constantly in flux? Associate Professor Towner RN suggests motivation-inspired goals and mentoring.

“I suggest that nurses set their career goals around what keeps them motivated.

“Share the goals with someone who can support you to get there, whether that is a peer, a manager or a professional mentor.

“To reach your goals, you have to be proactive. Immerse yourself in every opportunity that will provide personal growth and development, and demonstrate to those around you that you are committed.

“Ask someone you respect to be a mentor. This can be finding someone at a similar level – a peer mentor - who is also goal oriented. Have regular meetings over coffee to keep each other accountable and to reflect on and test your ideas.

“Or find a senior mentor – often you have to seek them out yourself and ask them. I can almost guarantee that any senior nurse would be delighted to give back. But remember, you drive this. Mentors only guide the way.”

Don’t be dismayed if you encounter challenges in reaching goals, but do regularly reflect on your progress, advises Associate Professor Towner RN.

“Along the way as a nurse, there are twists and turns. Part of life as a nurse, and as a human being, in any environment, is that there will be challenges.

“Take time to reflect regularly on how you are travelling. Don’t wait until you feel like you’re struggling. Instead, make it something that you do regularly.

“You can set a schedule, be it daily, weekly or monthly. How are you feeling mentally, physically and emotionally? If you are struggling, try to identify why – if it is work-related, is it about workload, team dynamics or a multitude of things?

“If you can identify what is causing the issue, be proactive about addressing it either using strategies you might already know or seeking out new strategies through mentors or more formal avenues such as professional help.

“If you exhaust your strategies and supports and still feel the mountain is too tall to climb, don’t leave the profession, leave the role! It comes back to nursing having endless career options.”


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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.