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Begin the journey!

Years ago, at the beginning of my nursing career, a mentor asked me, "What do you want to be doing in your career 5 years from now?" While I do not recall my initial reaction exactly, I am almost certain that I looked at her in horror and thought, "She is nuts! I just want to survive this shift!" Twenty-six years later, I realize that question set me on a course that has guided me through a fabulous and rewarding career in neuroscience nursing.

This issue of JNN launches this new column, "Career Development." In this inaugural column, we are asking you where you want to be in your neuroscience nursing career in 5 years. It is our hope to provide you with practical and exciting information that will help you in every phase of your career. Most importantly, we hope that it will set you on a course that will take you on a rewarding journey over the next 5 years and beyond.

Why Think about Career Development?

Some of you may be wondering why you should be concerned with career development. Many of you may be saying the same thing I said, "Is she nuts? I don't have the time or the energy to do one more thing!" Why not just focus on doing a good job each day? However, having a career focus versus a job focus is very important for a variety of reasons.

First, having a career focus opens your mind to your future. Opening your mind to future possibilities lifts you above the often chaotic day-to-day routine of health care. As much as we love our work, we must face many times when neuroscience nursing is difficult. The knowledge that we have made a difference for an individual patient or even a group of patients is not always enough. A focus on something bigger than the daily routine provides a broader perspective from which to draw inspiration and energy, and may allow us to see a day's work through a new lens.

Pursuing a career can have both tangible and intangible rewards. Usually, having a career vision leads to the development of new skills. These skills could include becoming expert in a particular area of neuroscience nursing, writing for publication, or teaching peers or students. Tangible rewards often follow the attainment of these tangible advanced skills, including pay increases and bonuses, or even a promotion. Intangible rewards may include personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Both types of rewards often result in renewed energy and enthusiasm for our work and our careers.

Who Should Read this Column?

YOU should read this column! This column is all about you and what you need as you move through your nursing career. It is focused on enabling you to meet your career goals. Regardless of where you are along your nursing career path, this column will have something for you. For the novice nurse, it will include articles to help you navigate those rollercoaster years that often come at the beginning of a career. If you are already career-oriented, then this column will be a ready aid to keep you on track toward your goals. There are many nursing career tracks, including clinical practice, education, administration, and research. All of these tracks are vital to the provision of quality nursing care. This column will be filled with practical advice about navigating your career journey regardless of the track you choose or where you are in your neuroscience nursing career.

How Do You Begin a Career?

Begin with a vision of where you might like to end up in your career. It is fine if the picture is a little fuzzy right now. It will become clearer as your career progresses. Start to think about what you might need to do to move toward your goal. A practical way to begin creating a vision for your career in neuroscience nursing is to ask yourself, "where do I want to be in my nursing career in 5 years?"

On first analysis, one might think that to have a successful career, one has to progressively change jobs or roles. You also might believe that you have to pursue advanced academic degrees to develop your career. Neither of these suppositions are necessarily true. Teresa Romano, clinical nurse specialist in neuroscience at LSU Health Science Center-Charity Hospital in New Orleans, says,
 "I firmly believe that if you
 take each and every day as
 an opportunity to learn something
 new, and make a difference
 with that knowledge,
 that career doors are opened
 to you. To exactly what, it may
 not be clear at first, but by
 using the gifts you have been
 given, such as the ability to
 energize people, teach others,
 provide great bedside care,
 or whatever the case may be,
 your special talents will open
 doors for your career path."

Romano further says, "Keep your mind open to new opportunities. Take a chance! Do something different to jump-start your career."

The key ingredient in career progression is simply about you and how you choose to grow as a neuroscience nurse. Becoming an expert nurse on the unit on which you now work is as worthy and lofty a career goal as getting a PhD in nursing and becoming a researcher. It all comes down to what is right for YOU! Being a bedside expert is right for Karen Molson, staff nurse at Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, NY, who states,
 "I believe education to be very
 important to my career development,
 and I consider myself
 to be mostly self-taught. I go
 to the hospital library at least
 once a week and copy the latest
 journal presentations that
 are published by our neurosurgery/endovascular and
 neurology physicians. I then
 take this knowledge back to
 the unit and share with the
 staff the latest advances in current

Once you have begun to form a vision for your career, more questions are needed. The next question is, "What steps do I need to take to make the vision for my career a reality?" Begin with small steps, such as reading this column. If you wish to become the expert nurse on neurovascular disease on your unit, ask yourself, "What will I need to do to make that happen?" Chris Stewart-Amidei, advanced practice nurse in neurosurgery at the University of Chicago, says
 "It is important to assume that
 opportunities are not going
 to present themselves, sometimes
 you have to actively seek
 them out. You have to give
 different things a valid try. I
 think sometimes it is just as
 important to know what you
 don't want to do as it is to
 know what you do want to do
 in your career. That may mean
 trial and error. I tried working
 in the operating room, but
 found I missed patient contact.
 I quickly learned that wasn't
 for me, and shifted gears. I
 also tried staff development
 for a while, but found that
 wasn't my niche. Interestingly,
 in my current position, I spend
 time in the operating room as
 well as in staff development,
 but they are not priorities of
 my job."

Every opportunity presented to you from this point forward should be followed by you asking yourself if the opportunity will move you closer to your career vision. If the answer is "yes," then forge ahead! If the answer is "no," then look for other opportunities that will make your career advance. Unfortunately, we often spend entirely too much time doing what others would have us do rather than pursuing our own dreams. Nothing can sabotage your career more quickly and drain you of all your energy faster than pursuing activities that have no possibility of moving you in the direction you wish to go. Tim Shepard, stroke case manager in the Bon Secours Health System in Richmond, VA, says,
 "It is important in the early
 years of your career to find
 your passion, the type of work
 that really excites you. That
 way, regardless of how tough
 things get, you can still find
 excitement in the work."

A third and very important question is, "Who can help me advance my career?" Laura McIlvoy, a doctoral candidate at Indiana University in Bloomington, states,
 "I got started on this career
 path through mentoring. I
 worked with a CNS at a teaching
 facility about 5 years after
 becoming an RN and was in
 awe of her abilities. I knew I
 wanted to be one also. Both the
 experience of having a mentor
 and being a mentor have
 incredible impact in deciding
 what path you choose to take
 in nursing."

Finding a mentor is critical, not only in beginning a career, but also in every phase of career development. Future articles in this column will address mentoring in more depth. Start to look around your environment for a person you admire and would like to emulate. Talk to that person and ask for his or her advice regarding your career development.

Let's Get Started

As we launch this new column, we wish to entice you with a description of some of the topics planned for future columns. We will begin with three key articles that are particularly important to nursing career development. Mentoring is a concept that is central to career development regardless of where you may be on your career path or which career track you may have chosen. Look for this in the next column. Publishing, another concept critical to professional and career development, particularly for those who are farther along their career path, will follow mentoring. Negotiation of salary and benefits is a third concept central to the development of a career in nursing, and also will be featured in this column.

Your ideas are key to the success of this new journal section. We extend an invitation to you to tell us what information you need to get started, or restarted, on your career path, and how we may help. Your ideas for topics are welcomed and encouraged. Please contact the section editor for "Career Development," Sherry Fox, at

In addition to ideas, manuscripts also are invited. Perhaps you are at a point in your career where you are ready to publish your work. If so, contact the section editor to discuss your ideas and get needed assistance in preparing a manuscript.

Now you know what to do to get started in your career in neuroscience nursing. You know the importance of career development. You know the questions to ask. It's time to take that first step toward your career development.
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:career development
Author:Fox, Sherry
Publication:Journal of Neuroscience Nursing
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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