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Probably the last thing anyone wants to think about after passing the NCLEX is more learning. Or—after you’ve finally snagged and gotten your feet wet in your first nursing position—more training. Even if you’re well into your career (in which case you’ve likely already completed nursing continuing professional development activities to maintain your license), with a ton of responsibilities and a wide range of experience, further professional development may still seem daunting or even redundant. But the fact of the matter is that professional development is as essential to every nurse as a good pair of shoes. To explore why, let’s break it down into two categories: new RNs and experienced nurses.

Professional Development for New Nurses

For new RNs, while on-the-job learning is a huge component as you start your career, professional development can help you navigate those challenges and, ideally, prepare for them before they arrive. This is especially true in two related areas:

Continuing education helps you staying up to date on the latest workplace technology, as well as changes in best practices, disease states, and standards of patient care. Required annually in many states to maintain your nursing license, nursing continuing development can cover a broad range of issues and topics, and be part of a plan to acquire additional certifications or even degrees.

Competency translates to how well you’re able to put what you’ve learned to use on the job. As you probably know, the nursing landscape moves fast, bringing with it new treatment techniques, health care trends, and advanced tools. Demonstrating you are proficient in core competencies as well as able to stay in sync with what’s new in the field goes a long way toward career success and confidence.

Professional Development for Experienced Nurses

For experienced nurses with some time on the job, professional development activities can ensure you’re meeting continuing education requirements and improving core competencies. It also helps you stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in patient care. It can open opportunities for advancement in your career. Additional nursing certifications, qualifications, and degrees—such as completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)—can lead to promotions on the job or, if you feel stuck in your current position, open the doors to a host of new career categories, including management, leadership, administrative, specialty, or education.

Who to Talk to About Your Professional Development Needs

Professional development plans for nurses both new and experienced are never a one-size-fits-all proposition. Luckily, when it comes to figuring out the best path toward either meeting your requirements or attaining (or even deciding on) your professional goals, you probably already know the person to go to with questions. Nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners work in a number of health care system practice and clinical settings, schools, associations, and other areas of care. Knowledgeable in adult learning principles, evidence-based and critical thinking, career development, continuing education, leadership, and other important areas of nursing education and practice, these educators have probably already helped you along the way to where you are right now in your career. What’s important to remember is that they are available to help you with the next step in your career, as well as keep your footing when it comes to maintaining competencies in your current role.

The Bottom Line: Better Care

Nursing professional development is essential to better patient care. The treatment landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and keeping up with it is part of the job. In fact, in the Institute of Medicine’s (now the National Academy of Medicine) landmark 2010 report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Changes, Advancing Health,” half of the overall recommendations for changing and advancing the nursing landscape were education- and learning-based. These included increasing the number of nurses with BSNs to 80% and doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate —both by the year 2020 (coming soon). Also emphasized were the importance of increasing engagement efforts in lifelong learning and empowering nurses to lead the charge in advancing health and wellness.

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Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and/or information contained herein are for informational and/or entertainment purposes only. Although they are generally intended to align with our policies and positions, they may not necessarily reflect the American Nurses Association Enterprise’s official policies and/or position statements.