5 ways for nurses to stay on the cutting edge
The nursing profession is undergoing constant change as technology advances and scientific research expands. Here are five tips from our nursing experts on how to stay relevant and keep your skills up-to-date:
1. Join a nursing society.
"Nursing societies provide a wide variety of ways to stay on the cutting edge of our profession," says Kerrie Downing, RN, MSN, campus college chair of the nursing program at the University of Phoenix Minneapolis/St. Paul Campus. Nursing societies can be large and national in scope, such as the American Nurses Association, or small, as regional associations and specialty societies are. These organizations often offer their members access to publications, online discussion boards and a host of other services, which can include career advice, conferences, conflict resolution, even political advocacy.
"It's always great to have someone else within the profession to connect with, and not just be limited by the people in your workplace," Downing says.
2. Volunteer in your profession.
"I advise nurses to get involved in their [profession's] self-governance," says Juanito C. Torres Jr., MSN, a registered nurse who manages the nursing simulation lab at the University of Phoenix Hawaii Campus. This can include unit practice councils at the hospitals where nurses work, or research committees sponsored by nursing societies, among other opportunities. "Nurses need to get involved in these types of committees to be aware of the latest developments and promote best practices," Torres says. Nurses can even get involved in political action; changes in national policy on seat belt laws and public smoking bans, for instance, owe their enactment in large part to nurses.
3. Attend conferences often.
Conferences offer plenty of opportunities to stay current, whether it's an opportunity to network or hear lectures by leading voices in the profession. "If you've been working in the same area for more than two to three years, your skills are probably stale and you need to get up to speed," says Margi Schultz, RN, PhD, who obtained her BSN and MSN degrees from University of Phoenix and is currently a nurse educator. "Conferences offer you a way to get the latest information so you can keep your nursing practice based on the best available evidence."
4. Read nursing journals.
Torres says that top nursing journals such as American Journal of Nursing and Evidence-Based Nursing publish the latest research. Many hospitals subscribe to these and other journals, and societies frequently make them available at a discount to their members.
5. Step out of your comfort zone.
Shultz recommends that nurses shake up their routines a bit in order to gain new skills. "Go to classes, obtain advanced certifications, maybe shadow a nurse in another specialty," she says. "There's no reason to get bored with the same old thing."