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How to Extend Your Nursing Career – Four Experts Share Advice

Nursing is a demanding profession, both physically and psychologically. Injuries and burnout are high in nursing. It is important for registered nurses (RNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and orderlies to sometimes focus their care inward and pay attention to their own physical and mental health.

We have collected opinions from four nurses on extending your nursing career and staying motivated. Remember these four people are courageously sharing their thoughts, undoubtedly influenced by their own unique careers in nursing. Respect their opinions, but freely agree, disagree or share your own advice for others!

What tip or piece of advice would you give to help extend someone’s nursing career?

“Nurses can extend their career by going back to school and furthering their studies. Further studies can range from getting a master’s or doctorate degree to changing their field like studying to become a wound nurse, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, informatics nurse, nurse educator or nurse manager.” – Joyce Fiodembo, RN


“The best piece of advice that I can give is to be your best nurse. Burnout, compassion fatigue and pure exhaustion are real issues that many nurses face. While many people blame the nursing profession and the ever-shifting environment of health care for these challenges, the real truth is that when a nurse is showing up each and every day as their best ‘self’, when they really and truly love what they do from the inside out, the j-o-b feels less like ‘work.’ If a nurse is looking to extend (enjoy) their career, then they need to find what it is that lights them up each day … and do that.” – Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN

“Nursing is difficult work, both mentally and physically. The one thing that has helped me to maintain personal mental health and compassion toward my patients is to make sure that I take time for myself. This is one of the best things about working as a travel nurse. I can take time between contracts, schedule time off for important family events, etc. By taking time for me, I’m better able to be a compassionate and caring nurse.” – Candy Treft, RN

“Nursing can be a stressful profession, but also one that can be exceedingly satisfying, both personally and professionally. In the 21st century, it’s important to remain nimble, flexible and open-minded in terms of new opportunities within the nursing profession and the wider health care industry. Health care is volatile and fickle at this time in history, so savvy nurses are open to new opportunities, willing to learn new skills and willing to leverage their multifaceted skills in novel ways. Self-care is a very important aspect of having a satisfying and healthy career. From nutrition and hydration to having sufficient time for rest and leisure, nurses must care for themselves so that they can provide optimal care for others.” – Keith Carlson, RN

What tips or advice do you have to stay motivated in a nursing career over the long term?

“Nursing is a great career, but can get exhausting and it is easy for nurses to lose motivation. In order to remain motivated, nurses should change the type of patient population they care for from time to time. This makes them learn new skills and get different experiences, which keeps them motivated.” – Joyce Fiodembo, RN

“The very best way to stay motivated in a nursing career (in anything really), is to find the benefits. Figure out what you get out of putting the hard work in that you do. For example, to equate this with exercise, if I don’t like to run and see no benefit from it, then I will stop. Same is true for what motivates me to stay engaged in an exercise over time. If I feel awake, youthful and strong because I practice yoga, then I’m much more likely to keep this routine up. To stay motivated in a career is no different: Find the joy you receive from that and focus on the benefits.” – Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“Always seek to be better, learn a new skill or sharpen an old one. It’s important to keep from getting into a rut and keep your mind keen and sharp. As a travel nurse, I’m able to constantly keep building on my education and experience.” – Candy Treft, RN

“Nurses are highly trusted by the general public, and our work is central to the successful delivery of health care and positive patient outcomes. We must always be willing to learn, grow and move beyond our self-imposed limitations. Being willing to think outside of the box and look for new opportunities is crucial. Staying in your comfort zone may feel safe, but it can also lead to feeling stuck. Remain open, and trust that you are a savvy professional who can learn new skills, adapt to changes in technology, and leverage your knowledge and expertise into new ways to be of service and create a satisfying career.” – Keith Carlson, RN

About The Nurses

Joyce Fiodembo has been an RN for more than 20 years, working in various settings in several countries. She has authored several books and is the founder of International Nurse Support.

Elizabeth Scala is a former psychiatric nurse in Maryland who now works as a nurse entrepreneur, bestselling author, workshop/conference host, keynote speaker and Reiki master teacher. Visit her at http://elizabethscala.com/.

Candy Treft, better known as the Gypsy Nurse, has worked as a travel nurse throughout North America and Europe. Her assignments have ranged from eight weeks to 12 months. She helps others learn and hone skills in the travel medical profession. Visit her at TheGypsyNurse.com.

Keith Carlson is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, nurse podcaster and board-certified nurse coach who provides holistic career coaching for savvy 21st-century nurses. His website is NurseKeith.com, and his popular nursing podcast can be found at RNFMRadio.com.

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