When I was asked to write this piece for NPD in Motion, I was wildly excited, because one of my favorite things is connecting with other nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners and learning from and sharing with them. Then, I reread the request—"advice for new NPDs…". My eyes widened, my nose wrinkled, and I sighed deeply—ADVICE? At that moment, the word "advice" paralyzed me for some reason. With more than 20 years of experience as an NPD practitioner, I was shocked by my initial reaction. As I reflected on the surprising feeling, I recalled receiving "bad advice" as a young practitioner, leaving me with a negative connotation for all advice.
I googled the word “advice,” which simply means "guidance or recommendations with regard to prudent future action" (Google, n.d.). My uneasiness was allayed because I could give guidance. Thus, my idea for this article was born—a top ten countdown of guidance on advancing your career as a new NPD.
10. Your journey belongs to you. One thing all NPD practitioners have in common is that they all start with a first step; however, where you take your initial steps may differ from other NPDs. This is an essential piece of advice because it is natural to compare yourself to others. Still, everyone has different experiences they bring with them, impacting their transition.
9. Reality shock looms on the horizon. Reality shock is natural and expected when transitioning to a new role—even for NPDs, because you are moving from an expert clinician to a new NPD. Allow yourself grace as you move through the stages from expert back to novice and back to expert. As a new NPD, you can manage your reality shock by reflecting on your practice and allowing yourself to enjoy being "new" as you develop new knowledge, skills, and competencies.
8. Celebrate your natural gifts and talents. As you grow your practice, capitalize on what makes you unique; this will help make your transition seamless. You can't be all things to all people, but you can always be you. Tap into your natural gifts and find the aspects of professional development that bring you enjoyment. This will positively impact the learning environments, strengthening nursing practice and improving outcomes. When you are celebrating your best self, you will shine.
7. Align your practice with the NPD Practice Model. The center circle in the throughputs of the model focuses on your organization's aims. By aligning your practice to the model, it will help advance your career as you will be helping your organization achieve its mission, vision, and values. You will also be strengthening nursing practice and improving outcomes. Check out the ANA code of ethics and the Scope and Standards of Practice, 4th Ed. These are essential frameworks upon which to build your practice.
6. Network. Connect with other NPDs by joining ANPD and your local affiliates. I love the energy when NPDs gather over our shared common interests. I have always gravitated to joining professional organizations, from Health Occupations Students of America in high school to the National Student Nursing Association in college. From these memberships, I have met many people who helped me on my journey, and I love returning the favor. In fact, I was one of the founding members of my local affiliate. Because of my involvement with the Michigan Nursing Professional Development (MNPD) organization, I secured a fantastic clinical rotation for my MSN, building relationships as I completed my coursework. And I was able to serve as a preceptor for other NPDs earning their MSN. The best part of networking is that I made lifelong friends who care about my success and helped me advance my career. This is one of my favorite aspects of NPD—I get to return the favor and help others advance their career.
5. Find mentors. While networking, find mentors to help you grow and develop your professional practice, serving as your personal fan club, offering insights, and challenging you. I recommend having a few mentors you connect with, as they will have your best interests in mind. Consider mentors who have diverse experiences. While you are scouting for your dream team, include an experienced NPD who will understand the trials and tribulations of professional development, a nurse leader you respect and value, and a non-nurse who can give you a different perspective. I have five mentors who I regularly reach out to for various reasons. These mentors served as generous listeners and solid sounding boards to help me strengthen my practice and make sense of things. My heart is grateful for their wisdom and expertise, which was instrumental in advancing my career.
4. Stretch your comfort zone. As you gain comfort and experience with one skill, learn a new one and keep building skills. When you are sitting in a meeting where leaders call for volunteers, and your interest is piqued, raise your hand. Volunteering for stretch assignments allows you to explore and feed your curiosities. This approach has worked, giving me depth and breadth in my practice. As you learn new skills, reach out to experts to help show you the ropes. Then, once you master the skill, encourage others to raise their hand. Support them on their journey.
3. Be a continuous learner. Continue to gain new knowledge. Read the Journal for Nursing Professional Development. Join webinars. Attend conferences. Seek certification. Then, share the lessons you learned with others. Consider presenting at your local affiliate. A consistent practice of mine is reflecting on the NPD Practice Model, specifically the roles and responsibilities. I like to consider what I do well and where to improve. For example, I have the learning facilitator and the education design process down pat. However, I am not as strong in the "Champion for Scientific Inquiry." Thus, I am working on honing those skills by engaging in more rigorous evidence-based practice projects and nursing research.
2. Have a heart of gratitude. Express gratitude to those who have impacted your practice. Gratitude shapes our perspectives and allows us to focus on the positive aspects of our professional and personal lives. Kindness begets kindness, creating healthier work environments.
1. Celebrate all your milestones. Be your biggest cheerleader. Celebrating your accomplishments fosters a mindset of gratitude and builds a sense of community. My experience informs me that this is probably one of the hardest things for NPDs to do. I have witnessed many NPDs plan celebrations to honor others without considering how they contributed to the team's success. I know celebrating yourself may be awkward. I am not that good at it, either. But one way to advance your career is to celebrate your milestones and keep moving forward. When facilitating a class, I often encourage nurses to give themselves a "high five" as a simple way to celebrate.
This top ten list is like the conversations I had with newly licensed nurses and new NPDs as they grew and developed their professional nursing practice. Moreover, these are the recommendations I used as I advanced my career, moving from bedside nurse to a certified NPD and a doctoral-prepared nurse executive. I took a deep breath and put pen to paper to allay my worries about giving advice. I wish you many successes—and if you need a mentor, my dance card is open.
Google. (n.d.). advice. https://www.google.com/search?q=advice