5 Ways to Climb the Ladder of Knowledge: Tips for Nurses

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nurse, nurse competence, nursing knowledge, nursing school, nursing certification
This is what I know to be true about patients. They don’t care if you’ve been a nurse for a week, a year, 10 years or 100. They don’t care if you have a diploma, associates, bachelors, masters or even a doctoral degree – they EXPECT their nurses to be competent.
There is NO WAY you can maintain competence just by graduating from nursing school.
Have you noticed that we are no longer in the industrial age? We are now in the information and technology age and it’s hard to keep up! We are bombarded with new technology, new information, and new expectations on a daily basis.  When it seems like you’ve finally mastered that new IV pump, you find out your organization is changing pump companies! And now you have to attend inservices to learn how to work the new ones. You get bombarded with layer upon layer of new competencies, new assessment tools, and new things to document.
All of this technology requires time and may require money!
How do nurses keep up with their ethical responsibilities to our public by maintaining the competence required to meet their demands?

Read – Successful nurses (and humans) commit to reading every day – no matter what. Reading every day is the one thing I believe had the biggest positive impact on my life. Reading helped me to improve my relationships with others, grow my nursing career and eventually, start my own company. I will go without food before I go without reading. Reading is more nourishing!
Tip:  If there is a book I want to read, I get it from the library first. The library is FREE!!
Learn with others – Great synergy exists when nurses from the same department learn together. Attend inservices, conferences and seminars together. Talk about what you’ve learned and what you can take back to your department. The key is that when more than one of you is learning, you have a greater chance to improve your practice and your environment.
Tip: The magic number is 3. Don’t ever go to an inservice or meeting alone – bring 2 “friends.”
Get involved – Getting involved means that you understand nursing isn’t a swipe in and swipe out type of career. Join professional nursing organizations, participate as an ACTIVE member on a committee or council, sit at the decision-making tables so that nursing has a voice.
Tip: Always include your involvement on your resume. Folks like me look for any evidence that you view nursing as a career and not a job!
Get certified: There is a big push for certification. Why? Because we know that when patients are cared for by nurses who are certified, they have better outcomes. Think about it. There is great preparation involved in getting ready to take a certification exam (I know because I teach them!!). And, you have to show evidence that you’ve maintained your competence to get re-certified.
Tip: If you suffer from test-taking anxiety, click here. I’ve written several blogs post about test taking (I am a master at multiple choice exams!!).
Advance your degree – Many nurses say they are too old to go back to school or that it will take soooo long to finish. When nurses are in school, often people ask, “When are you going to be done? When will you graduate?” That’s because everyone is looking at school as a destination – a finish line. Instead, look at it as a journey. When I was in school (I started with an associates degree, and then got my BSN, MSN and now have my DNP), I looked at each semester/class individually. I would ask myself, “What can I learn in THIS class, THIS semester that will help me to grow professionally and personally?” Before I knew it, I was done. 
Tip:  Remember to focus on the learning – not the destination! You don’t want to get to the end without enjoying the ride.
Keeping up in the information and technology age can feel overwhelming. But not if you think of it as a ladder and just climb one rung at a time. Remember, our public EXPECTS their nurses to be competent. And who is the public? WE ARE!
I hope these tips help. I’d love to read your comments about this topic!
Thanks so much. Take care and stay connected!

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