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Managing Your Career
A Plan for Your Future
How to set goals that lead to job satisfaction.

“What do you want to be doing in five years?”

It’s a question that 33-year veteran nurse Patti Ludwig-Beymer hates. It never helped her focus on what she really wanted to do. In fact, new nurses who are able to articulate a five-year plan are the minority. Most nurses just hope to make it through another day.

But goal setting is essential to developing as a nurse and experiencing job satisfaction. Patti Ludwig-Beymer, PhD, RN, CTN, FAAN, who is the administrative director for nursing research and education at Edward Hospital & Health Services in Naperville, Illinois, talked with RealityRN about how to begin setting practical goals:

Give Yourself a Break
New nurses need to know that they cannot be all things to all people at all times. In my career I have been committed to nursing, but there have been times when I haven’t been able to be involved in professional organizations as much as I would have liked. There have also been times when I had to work part-time because my family needed more of me.

One of the reasons nurses come into the profession is the flexibility. New nurses don’t need to feel that they have to be on the fast track. They can say, “I am happy to be a staff nurse on this med surge unit for the next five years and that will get my child through kindergarten.” Goal setting must take into account your professional needs as well as your family/personal needs.

Identify Your Strengths and Passions
We don’t always do a good job helping new nurses identify what types of goals to set. To begin developing a vision for your future, answer these questions: What am I particularly interested in? How can I leverage that for my future development? What unique attributes do I bring to the organization? What accomplishments am I proud of? What gives me the most job fulfillment?

This type of reflection takes effort—and the support of a mentor. Often, a staff educator can help. When your annual performance review is on the horizon, begin to discuss these issues with a mentor. Then talk about them with your nurse manager during the review. It’s the perfect time to raise those issues.

Seek Advice
Don’t be afraid to seek advice on what would help enrich your current job: from a nurse manager or educator or even from a seasoned nurse. For instance, most hospitals have a shared leadership or shared governance structure. By participating in that governance, new nurses can develop a voice and see their profession within a larger framework. They may gain a vision for their future by seeing what their options are.

If you feel like getting involved is too much for your schedule, talk with a mentor or nurse manager to gain some perspective. They’ll be able to help you see how a small investment of your time will contribute to your skill set.

Develop Professionally
When I graduated from school 30 years ago, I heard a few graduates say, “I’m never going to open another book.” They were obsolete within a year. No new nurse intends to harm a patient or to give sub-optimal care. But if you’re not continuing to learn, you won’t provide high quality care.

Don’t be afraid to seek feedback from a nurse educator, a nurse manager, or peer nurses. They’ll be able to help you understand the behaviors they’re seeing and how taking advantage of an educational opportunity might help you avoid an error or feel more confident talking with a physician about your patient’s concerns. These are specific examples of how it can be beneficial.

Patti Ludwig-Beymer is the administrative director, education and research at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill. She facilitates evidence-based practice and professional development by working with nurses and other clinicians on education, quality and research initiatives. Dr. Ludwig-Beymer collaborates to research topics as diverse as professional practice, culture, parish nursing, pain management, care environment, ethical issues, animal-assisted therapy and safety.

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