By Tyler Faust, R.N.
Whether you plan to pursue a job in the near future or down the road, preparing yourself with opportunities in your current position is the place to start. Nurses are afforded an abundance of experiences that will build their knowledge and expertise to equip them to be a better nurse and more marketable when the time for a new job comes. Nurses tend to think that joining a committee or helping to solve an issue on a unit adds a lot to their already full plate but it can often be a welcomed reprieve from the stresses of bedside nursing. Additionally, these experiences can expose you to new nursing roles, colleagues, and knowledge that you otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. Let’s look at common experiences that most nurses will be provided in their role.
The most prominent leadership position on a unit that staff can obtain is the role of charge nurse. As an extension of the nurse manager, the charge nurse chooses patient assignments, resolves issues, allocated resources properly, and is essentially able to do everything that might be thrown their way. They work closely with the nurse manager, physicians, and nursing staff. When patient problems arise, the charge nurse determines how to resolve them.
Given the level of responsibility of a charge nurse, it’s not a surprise that hiring managers value charge nurse experience so much. It shows a commitment to the unit and certainly a level of expertise within the practice. Charge nurses must have high-quality interpersonal skills and professional communication, both of which are essential for nurses to have with patients and staff alike. If there is one experience you could pick to grow yourself as a nurse and set yourself up for a new job in the future, being a charge nurse is definitely the best option.
Nursing committees vary in their level of commitment and time required to fulfill the role. Certain committees can be high-level, such as Department of Nursing committees, while others can be rather easy such as a hospitality or social committee. Joining a committee gives you exposure to leading change, practicing professional communication, observing behind the scenes activities, and developing leadership skills. This also tells hiring managers that as an employee, you’re capable and willing to go beyond the job description and are concerned and engaged with your work unit. Since most organizations have numerous committees, your level of experience as a nurse shouldn’t influence your ability to join a committee.
As you become more experienced you can look for committees that will better boost your resume and help to separate you from other potential candidates when you pursue another job. Opportunities to join a committee generally come around often as committee membership tends to be a revolving door with people joining and leaving frequently for a variety of reasons.
In your day-to-day work, it won’t be hard to find things that frustrate you and your colleagues. Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions? Why do we do this thing that doesn’t help our patients? Why do we have to do this when it takes so much of our time? Why is this process so inefficient? Why don’t we do this instead? Chances are if you’ve had these thoughts, your colleagues have too. Regardless, what this means is there is an opportunity to solve a problem on the unit!
If you are a true problem-solver by nature, this opportunity might be your best option. What you could do is have a conversation with your manager and share the problem that you noticed and potential solutions that could address the problem and how that would impact patient care and staff. If the manager agrees with you and sees the value in your proposal, they could give you the time and resources necessary to address the problem. This could mean dedicated time away from the bedside to develop or work on solutions or working with other individuals to help solve the problem as well.
This type of experience is extremely attractive for hiring managers. By successfully solving a problem on a unit you demonstrate that you had a working knowledge of the problem to the extent that you could actually solve it. You showed initiative to bring this up to nursing leadership and got their approval to pursue the problem, and then you showed you had the ability to fix the problem and make a positive impact on your unit. In short, if you were not there, none of this would have happened and your unit would be worse off.
Furthermore, what you just did to help your unit might benefit other units within your organization. Since you’re the expert on this topic, you could be asked to help others address their issues with the same or similar problems. Get this on your resume and hiring managers will be desperate to interview you! Next week’s post will focus on opportunities that aren’t as linear, but offer the same potential for motivation and growth at work.
About the Author
Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and Master's degree and Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 7 years. Currently, he works as a nurse manager. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.