By Julie Monroe, RN-BSN
You’ve passed the NCLEX and are enthusiastically searching for your first nursing job. Should you work med/surg for a few years or jump straight into a specialty? Or maybe you’ve been a nurse for years and feel completely burnt out, wanting to do something else with your training and experience, but what?
Today’s nursing job market can be hard to navigate because of variable employment opportunities, rapidly evolving technologies, and expectations of applicants that didn’t exist even a few years ago (we’re looking at you, BSN requirements). However, as the nursing discipline grows and develops, there are fresh possibilities for career paths, entrepreneurship, and positions in niche markets. There are also an increasing number of mentoring and personal development outlets for new nurses to gain skills and confidence as they begin their careers. With so many exciting new nurse avenues, direction and advice from an objective expert can be helpful. Enter career coaching for nurses.
What is career coaching for nurses?
Career coaches work to help people evaluate where they are in their careers and determine where they want to be in the future. Coaches then assist them in outlining a path with specific steps and action items to achieve these goals. While generalized career coaches can offer valuable advice, nursing is a unique field and requires the understanding and experience from coaches who have also worked as nurses and understand the dynamics of the profession.
Nursing career coaches are nurses who have expertise in career management and development, especially within the healthcare system. Some are board certified as nurse coaches through the American Holistic Nurses Association, while others draw from their job experience and continuing education that has maximized their skills in their own careers. These coaches can benefit nurses at any stage on the spectrum, from new nurse graduates to nurses in the latter stages of their careers who are looking to make a change.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, of NurseKeith.com, is a well-known registered nurse, blogger, podcaster, writer, and board-certified nurse coach who works with nurses from varied backgrounds. “I coach across what I call the nurse career lifespan,” says Carlson, “from nursing students just getting out of school trying to figure out what they’re doing, to older nurses who are coming into the profession from another career. Some people come to me because they want to make a transition, but they don’t know what to transition to. Others know exactly the transition they want but they don’t know how to do it. They might feel their resume isn’t strong enough, they don’t know how to use LinkedIn, or they don’t know how to network.”
Nurse career coaches understand the healthcare system as well the demands and nuances in nursing. They are experts not only in career and personal development, but also in the nursing scope of practice. This puts them in a unique position to help nurses think outside the box and find novel ways to use their education, clinical skills, and patient care experience.
Some nurses seek out career coaches to help them find and prepare for new positions or brush up on career-related skills. Others, like new nurse graduates simply need extra mentorship and coaching to gain their licenses and feel confident and competent in their first nursing roles.
Tiffany Gibson, BSN, RN-BC, CPN, a long-time pediatric nurse and nurse educator, created New Nurse Academy to bolster confidence in new nurses through NCLEX test prep and an online mentorship and residency program. She is concerned that nursing schools are primarily teaching to the state boards instead of helping students translate their knowledge into their jobs as new nurses.
“Nurses pass the NCLEX, but then they get real life patients and are still dumbfounded about what to do,” Gibson says. “It’s a whole new world. I want to be a mentor, to guide them, and to help smooth out that transition from nurse to professional.”
How can a coach help me with my career?
Nurse coaches provide a range of services based on individual needs. This could include basics like optimization of resumes, cover letters, and interviewing skills, but many coaches also offer extended mentoring sessions that cover a range of career-related subjects. In her online residency program, Gibson conducts weekly video meetings with novice nurses to discuss practical questions in nursing as well as broader themes like nursing philosophy and ways to develop both confidence and competency in practice. She also helps nurses of all levels of experience define their career goals and interests when searching for a new position.
Where can I find a nurse career coach?
Nurse career coaching is a relatively new field, but it’s growing rapidly. Here are a few tips on where to find a mentor or coach to help you shape your dream nursing career: