April23 , 2024

Motivation for increased professional development as a nurse

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The desire to be of service to children, adults, and unborn babies – often at their darkest times – is intrinsically part of why anyone would become a nurse. It is a truly caring profession based on empathy and a personal connection with each patient. That’s not to say that nurses cannot be highly ambitious and driven, however. This is particularly true in modern healthcare, where there are so many exciting opportunities for career advancement!

Naturally, a desire to have better pay, benefits, and working conditions will always be involved in any individual’s decision to engage in professional development. However, there are other important motivational factors that continue to inspire nurses to engage in lifelong learning and key nursing qualifications.

This article explores professional development for nurses and the factors that motivate them.

Mandatory vs optional learning outcomes

The terms used for Continued Professional Development (CPD) in nursing vary slightly from country to country. The principle remains the same. A vital aspect of this globally important job role is the need to regularly and measurably update understanding and skills in a wide range of relevant topics. These topics could cover the latest healthcare trends, techniques, treatments, technological aids, and infection control processes, for example.

The subject matter of nursing CPD can also depend on the career path of the nurse and their employer, but it is always designed to refresh and add to working knowledge and skills. There are often targets nurses (and other healthcare professionals) must reach annually, to demonstrate full commitment to staying up to date and being the best they can at their job.

In addition to the obligatory professional and personal growth expected of nurses, there exists another route that nurses may opt for. They can choose to enroll in accredited DNP online programs, which can be pursued in a flexible manner, accommodating existing commitments and work hours. Pursuing a DNP at Wilkes University, for example, opens doors to diverse career opportunities, from clinical leadership roles to academia and healthcare administration, making it an invaluable investment for a nursing career. The online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) course at Wilkes University can be completed within 12 weeks with three entrance opportunities throughout the academic year.

This is often the ultimate qualification for nurses, as it is a post-master’s qualification for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). It will enable them to apply for the top nursing roles in clinical or leadership situations.

So, what would motivate a nurse to engage in optional, but highly prestigious, professional development options like a DNP?

Seeking more challenge, variety, and responsibility

Technology has helped to remove some of the more mundane and labor-intensive tasks performed in traditional nursing roles. For example, nurses can take readings of a patient’s vital signs swiftly and efficiently using the latest highly accurate and precise MedTech equipment. However, even this wonderful array of devices and software hasn’t completely freed Registered Nurses (RNs) from a series of routine tasks. As a result, some nurses may feel they are ready for greater responsibility and challenge.

This is particularly true for nurses passed over for promotions, or who experience a series of unsuccessful interviews for new jobs. Not making any headway in a career can become demotivating and demoralizing.

In these scenarios, their qualifications could be holding them back, as they are often the first thing a senior decision-maker in an organization – or a recruiter – looks at. Despite talent and value as a nursing professional, nurses could be screened out from the get-go without a master’s or doctor’s degree listed in their qualifications.

Passion for a nursing specialty

Some nurses are inspired to continue their career progression – and gain the highest possible qualifications – due to a desire to work within a particular niche. For example, gaining a DNP would be an important step to becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). These nursing roles carry considerable clinical responsibility, enabling these nurses to do tasks that may otherwise be the remit of physicians.

As these senior roles in nursing are so vital and clinically advanced, they naturally command substantial salaries and enable qualified personnel to move freely when they choose to change location, for example.

With a DNP, a nurse could also become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), choosing to specialize in: pediatrics, critical care, emergency medicine, oncology, women’s health, psychiatric health, pain management or rehabilitation. These are just some of the professional niches available to nurses who have pursued a high level of advancement.

Passing on skills and experience becomes attractive

One reason nurses embark on significant professional enhancement programs is that they realize they have both an interest and skill for helping other nurses be the best they can be! Acquiring a DNP would put them on the right path to educating future generations of nurses in delivering safe, efficient, and effective patient care.

Some nurses feel drawn to the post of nurse educator, but there are opportunities to still be firmly in a healthcare delivery setting. For example, a DNP could become a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), a job role that commands a significant salary package too. This advanced nursing role involves administrating, evaluating, and developing patient care.

Qualified nurses could also spend the working day supervising an interdisciplinary healthcare team. This could include physicians, social workers, and nurse practitioners among others. The leader’s responsibility is to co-ordinate and delegate, supporting nurses in their ability to reach the team’s clinical goals.

Other developmental and educational job roles for advanced nurses include nursing informatics manager. These managers use practical skills and experience to find better ways to organize patient care using the latest software systems. Their work has a lasting impact on the working lives of colleagues, and the health outcomes of future patients.

Job vacancies of interest

There is huge demand for nurses in the US and in many overseas countries as well. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2022 and 2032, there will be a 6% increase in the number of RNs needed to fill vacancies, resulting in around 193,100 openings every year,

However, one sign that a nurse needs to invest in professional development could be a lack of attractive vacancies in their geographical area. The posts currently open may not offer enough of a challenge and sufficient salary to compensate the years of dedicated nursing achieved. Or possibly, when job hunting a nurse may realize that the posts that interest them most demand an advanced nursing qualification.

Of course, there are various ways nurses can energize a stagnant job hunt including looking further afield, or looking at nursing posts in a different healthcare niche. However, they may want to consider adding to their qualifications via remote learning, as a way of opening up more career opportunities to apply for

To build a sense of progress

Some people just thrive on challenging themselves in their work, rest, and play! They may decide to invest in their professional development as the process of improving skills and knowledge is enjoyable and interesting. The destination qualification could simply be the ‘icing on the cake’.

The most advanced qualifications in nursing are not ‘restful’ or easy. However, it is rewarding for nurses to expand their minds constantly, and learn new techniques and knowledge connected to their job.

For example, a nurse working toward the DNP degree could grow their understanding of healthcare at a local, state, and national level, finding opportunities to analyze and evaluate global healthcare trends and improvements.

Their ability to contribute more to clinical teams would also move forward, and they would certainly gain the respect of colleagues, who may be more inclined to consult and include them in decision making.

One study into intention and motivation to pursue higher education among RNs and midwives found that: “The nurses and midwives were highly motivated to pursue higher education regardless of their demographic status, available resources, and barriers. Furthermore, the eagerness of the nurses and midwives to pursue higher education, […] is rooted in their desire to grow in their profession.”

Gain greater job satisfaction and confidence

Even those entirely happy with their current specialty as a nurse and who have a good chance of securing promotion if they wait for the right moment to apply could have personal motivations for taking more qualifications for nurses. This includes a desire to gain to grow self-confidence and competence.

One study on this topic found that: “experiencing that the work is meaningful is crucial for motivation” as a nurse. In other words, genuinely making a difference to the lives of patients can keep nurses going each day.

Wanting to learn more in-depth skills and knowledge about a career that interests and inspires makes perfect sense. Nurses may find that their sense of job satisfaction increases with an advanced skillset and the very latest learning for nursing professionals.

Having an advanced professional qualification will also grow self-assurance. Professional development endows nurses with an appreciation of the latest healthcare trends, techniques, and technological advancements. These can be applied in daily tasks to the benefit of patients and nurse confidence levels.

A nursing professional’s sense of job satisfaction will also be enhanced if their employer fully supports their quest to gain advanced qualifications. It shows they believe the nurse is destined for senior roles in their organization.

However, some people choose to self-manage their career advancement without the direct involvement of any employer, as the prize is top level nursing jobs in alternative settings. Regardless, while working towards those exciting job opportunities, the nurse’s current working day may well improve as a result of their learning.

Maintaining work-life balance is important

In any profession, the further up the career ladder an individual goes, the more control they have over the roles and responsibilities they choose to take. With excellent qualifications and experience to offer to an employer, a nurse is more likely to win posts that offer a degree of flexibility. Within these roles, nurses can make their own demands regarding professional and personal support.

This could add up to nurses feeling empowered to take control of the working day, avoiding pitfalls such as feeling overworked or under recognized. In turn, this leads to far less stress to take home at the end of a working day.

Desire for more professional respect

Nurses can be motivated to acquire more qualifications, skills, and knowledge, as they are driven by a much wider issue than their own job satisfaction and confidence.

When reaching the highest levels of nursing, individuals can start to have a measurable impact on how the profession is viewed and the standards it reaches in a multitude of healthcare settings. These nurses become the leaders, advocates, and research powerhouses who are improving global healthcare in general. To reach such career highs is not everyone’s goal, but for some nurses, it can be a massive motivator to keep studying and gaining experience in this vital healthcare profession.