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5 ways to get promoted and advance your nursing career

When you think about ways to get promoted, dreams of more pay and prestige can be a big motivator. Promotions can be hard to come by in a competitive work environment, and the amount of extra effort involved can feel overwhelming. Nurses already work long hours, and competition between nurses doesn’t benefit anyone, so promotions can be a mixed blessing.

Because travel nurses are always dealing with new jobs, people, and places, you might think that advancement opportunities are scarce in a travel nursing career. Fortunately, travel nurses have some unique advantages over permanent staffers, which give them a better shot at working the jobs they want at their desired pay. Here are 5 ways for travel nurses to be more promotable.

1. Stay motivated with a career plan

The most powerful thing you can do for any career path is to start with a written plan. Right out of nursing school, or starting exactly where you are today, figure out your short-term and long-term goals. Do you want to lead a team of nurses? Be a specialist in a certain field? Become a teacher? Write these goals out, then list the steps you need to take. Make a special note of any promotions you’ll need along the way.

To stay focused, you should also keep a list of less tangible goals. What additional skills do you want to learn? What impact do you want to make? These will be key for keeping yourself motivated and passionate.

2. Enjoy your job

It’s crucial that nurses actually enjoy the work they do in order to get a promotion. If you are negative and unhappy at work, you aren’t pleasant to work with. This will cut you off from the leadership and teamwork experience you’ll need to move forward and upward. Nurses who are passionate about what they do will be more likely to get a promotion, since they’re energized to work hard, excited to help others, and equally pleasant for coworkers and patients.

Nurses in a rut can find ways to ignite their passion again, or even find a new passion. Travel nurses have the advantage of starting new jobs frequently, which gives you more opportunities to discover new passions and reduce burnout.

3. Keep learning, and be a resource

Promotions are all about nurses providing more benefits to the facility, and being compensated accordingly. The best way for you to boost your value to hospitals or clinics is by gaining more knowledge and experience. Read scholarly articles and journals related to your field, go to additional training, and consider going back to school. All of this knowledge will pay for itself. A natural benefit of travel nursing is that you can gain more knowledge and experience while traveling than you’d get from a single permanent job.

Once you gain knowledge, be sure to use it! Advise your coworkers and bosses on what you see as best practices—this will make you a resource to your team, which will make you standout when your company considers promotions.

ways to get promoted - image of travel nurse meeting with patients

4. Be a team player—find a mentor, be a mentor

Promotions might seem competitive, and they are, but that doesn’t mean nurses should compete against their coworkers. Nurses who work well in teams can also do a great job leading teams. The best supervisors know that. Even though nursing shifts are long and tiresome, try to help your coworkers and bosses whenever you can, even if it’s something as simple as running an errand or grabbing a snack for someone who’s extra busy.

Mentorships are another great way to earn a promotion. Find a mentor who has similar interests and career aspirations, and ask them for advice—it goes far. Mentors can also help you network. Finding a mentor is all about giving back, though. You should be equally open to mentoring other nurses with less experience. Not only is great for your personal development, it will also show your boss your ability to lead and be a catalyst for team growth.

5. Learn how to ask for what you want

Of all the ways to get promoted, this one might be the toughest. You can work extra hard, have unmatched knowledge and experience, and demonstrate excellent leadership skills, but if you don’t ask, chances are the promotion will go to the first person who does ask for it.

When asking for a promotion, consider two things: what you’re asking for, and why you’re asking for it. Start with the “why.” Lots of people assume that promotions are about a nurse’s merit or the time a nurse has spent at a job. Instead, think about how your company would benefit from promoting you. Would you be able to spend more time teaching other nurses? Developing better nursing practices? Improving patient outcomes? These reasons will be a lot more convincing.

Next, consider the “What.” Are you asking for a pay raise? A leadership role? It’s important to ask for something reasonable. Go back to your career plan, and figure out the next step in your career—how can a promotion get them there?

Travel nursing allows nurses to guide their career exactly how they want it, stay motivated, gain new knowledge, and meet new people, so it’s the perfect setup for being more promotable. All you have to do is get clear on what you want, prepare, and ask!


About the author

Kathleen Stone

Kathleen Stone is a writer for RNnetwork from Salt Lake City, Utah. In her spare time, she loves going to the desert, trying new foods and being with family.


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