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Climbing the Nursing Corporate Ladder

Many nurses are content with clinical nursing, bedside practice and the routine events of the job. What if that is not you, though? What if you want something more? Learning, mastering and becoming used to the routine duties of the registered nurse is an awesome challenge and opportunity. Taking this up a notch to stand out, receive recognition and even a promotion–well that takes something special.

When I interview candidates for a leadership position on my team, I tend to focus more on prior work habits and behaviors than the interview questions-and-answers. IF you want to get promoted, grow into nursing leadership, management, director and even chief nurse, you must live and breathe some basic principles every day. Regardless of your career goals, you must try hard to take care of people every day in a positive and caring way. With that said, if this isn’t you, well you should not be in nursing in the first place.

Now for the over achievers who want to rise through the ranks. The first thing the nurse wants to do is show up for work. This is such a simple, yet powerful accomplishment. Leaders are present on a daily basis. Leaders must be on the job in order to lead. Sounds simple, so let’s just keep it that way. No need to explore this fine quality any deeper.

Now that you are present and want to lead your team to victory, take a deep breath and remember where you are and what you do. Unfortunately, I have worked with many nurses who forget they are healthcare professionals who work in a hospital or healthcare facility. If all the nurse does is complain about the patients, complain about the hospital, complain about the hours and about any number of things, I wonder why they ever picked the profession in the first place. Keeping yourself in check is a great way to prevent reacting to situations as if they were a surprise or should never happen.

Portrait of confident female doctors consulting patient in hospital

Now that you show up for work and prepare yourself for the many obstacles in a day, I say this: “go out there and take them on.” Having a positive, go-get it attitude is a great start to your professional career. Take this positive attitude everywhere with you. I recall a former director telling me that the feedback she received on me was a positive one. She told me that my attitude was always good, and people loved when I walked on the unit. I don’t mean to sound vain, but it was so simple. Just be nice, happy, expect the unexpected, do not react, don’t yell, smile and come to work to work. There, the secret to success! Now go get that promotion.

You caught me! Attitude is half the game with the other half being experiences, logic, professionally providing your opinion and education. Starting with experiences, this points out a very important concept. Too many times I see brand new nurses go into leadership positions because, well they have an R.N. after their name. In order to lead and help others, you will need some experiences under your belt. These experiences consist of handling unique clinical situations, angry family members, frustrated doctors, short staffed units, support staff goofing off and, well, just about whatever else you can think of. Experiences build character, precedence and confidence in your decision making.

Logic and your right to have and voice an opinion comes as you work through the healthcare setting and understand how it should operate. Logic, along with experience, helps the nurse offer solutions. I caution you when you do this. What you should never do is complain about a situation and vocalize your frustration with words like “they” or “why did we?” Rather, use words like, “I have an idea.”

Nurses who promote other nurses want leaders who are going to help them improve operations and make things easy and simple while ensuring that critical aspects remain in place. To the average lay person, many units seem to do things that are often not understood. The more education and the greater understanding a nurse achieves, the more complicated things can get. The goal is to make things simple, yet follow all the criteria set forth by accrediting agencies and the health regulators. This is where education comes really comes into play.

Climbing the corporate ladder will involve and require a higher educational degree. The Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) will help prepare you for the requirements of clinical management and leadership. A Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) takes this further into administration functions. Learning about change management, interventions, staff buy-in and federal and state requirements will help the nurse leader be successful.

As you embark on advancing your career, keep all of these factors in mind. The many variables that you encounter on a daily basis will challenge you in ways you could never imagine. Remember, every situation and day will eventually end. Focusing on bad behaviors stick out to all involved. So I ask, why not deal with it, handle it and move on? Your team, boss, executives, patients and anyone else involved will hear positive things about you. This is your goal. Never let your name get tarnished because you forgot what you are and where you are working.

John Green

John Green, RN, MSN is a Masters-prepared, registered nurse who has worked in healthcare for 20 years. He currently works as the Assistant Director of Nursing at an upstate New York hospital He owns and operates a health and wellness business and is currently a Doctoral Student in Health Care Administration. Read More

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