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Professional Development for Nurses

In the ever changing and evolving world of healthcare, nurses must pursue knowledge and growth as professionals, which may include additional or continuing education, mentorship or other activities to stay at the top of their field.

“Professional development is an important element of every nurse’s practice,” said Marian Altman, PhD, RN, CNS-BC, CCRN-K, clinical practice specialist, CSI Academy supervisor at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

The AACN Clinical Scene Investigator (CSI) Academy, the hospital-based nurse leadership and innovation training program, represents a successful method of developing as a nursing professional. CSI empowers nurses to spearhead projects that innovate, transitioning direct care critical care nurses into leaders who drive improved patient care and financial outcomes. Currently, 448 staff nurses have been direct participants in the CSI Academy program.

The American Nurses Association felt so strongly about the value of nurses’ professional development, the organization has chosen to focus on it during the third week of National Nurses Month 2023 in May, which revolves around the “You Make a Difference” theme. Learn how AMN Healthcare is celebrating Nurses Month

“Nurses need to stay current on changes related to medications, procedures, techniques and technology,” Altman said. “We also need to know the latest best practices and evidence and keep our skills up to date. It’s part of our commitment to provide competent and quality care to our patients.”

How to Select Professional Development Activities

A key reason that nurses should participate in professional development activities remains to improve patient care. Nurses must stay abreast of new research and evidence-based practice guidelines.

Altman recommended nurses understand their personal priorities before embarking on professional development opportunities. She explained that such opportunities might include finding and listening to a mentor, taking courses of interest, raising a nurse’s competency level by learning a new piece of equipment, or taking on additional unit activities.

“Consult with your unit leader and/or a mentor to help you identify educational, learning and leadership opportunities,” said Altman, adding that mentors can help coach and guide nurses and their careers.

Certification remains a valuable credential and well worth the time invested in achieving it. Professional certification demonstrates the nurse has achieved success in his or her specialty, increasing credibility and sometimes income.

“Nurses have so many options to choose from when it comes to professional development. Lots of learning opportunities are free or require only a brief time commitment,” Altman said. “The key is to find activities that align with your personal career goals and interests, as well as those of your employer.”

Professional Development Options for Nurses

Returning to school to obtain an advanced degree is a phenomenal way to achieve professional development. Terry M. Foster, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, CCRN, TCRN, FAEN, the 2023 president of the Emergency Nurses Association, reported many of the nurses he works with now hold graduate degrees, a change from several years ago.

Opportunities abound for continuing educational activities. Many professional nursing organizations offer them to their members. Generally, states have continuing education requirements to maintain licensure. Some companies and employers offer free continuing education courses, including AMN which offers free CEUs as part of its benefits package for contract nurses.

Nurses can participate in unit- or hospital-based committees and volunteer for leadership roles on those committees, Altman said.

Additionally, nurses can network with fellow nurses outside of their units and their hospitals, she added. A fabulous way to do that is by participating in a local or national professional organization and attending and presenting at their conferences, such as AACN’s National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition.  

“AACN chapters are located throughout the United States and offer local professional development, as well as a variety of volunteer opportunities,” Altman said. “Some volunteer roles require only a brief time commitment, but working on a big project or taking a leadership position may require more time and energy.”

A simpler and more convenient way to network with fellow nurses is using AMN Passport, where nurses can share professional development tips and contract nursing best practices.

Nurses are increasingly becoming involved in research. Altman urged nurses to participate in those studies. Perhaps write an article about an initiative and have it published or inquire to be a guest contributor to a nursing blog (such as this one).

“Professional development helps us further our career in nursing through taking a new role, and leadership growth,” Altman said.

Advance Your Nursing Career with New Experiences

Another way that nurses can achieve professional development is by experiencing different work environments and learning from new colleagues on short-term travel nursing contracts. These acquaintances can also help build your professional network.

AMN has hundreds of opportunities across the country in a variety of nursing specialties.

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