3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Nursing Continuing Education

by | Jan 20, 2015 | 21 comments

nurse climbing stairsLooking for a nursing career alternative can be a daunting experience. What’s one of the first things that we do as nurses when we want to make a job change? You got it: think we need more education.

And while I’m all about continuing education for nurses (I myself have lots of degrees; I’ve become certified in non-nursing modalities; I offer CNEs at my Nurse’s Week virtual conference), I want to offer a post of caution on constantly advancing your nursing career the educational way.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the college drop-outs who’ve made billions: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ralph Lauren, and Mark Zuckerberg (to name a few). The rebuttal that may surface here: ‘Sure, none of them are nurses.’ OK, I hear you. I see that… AND let me ask you this: is there a nurse out there who is a billionaire?

Maybe making billions isn’t on your bucket-list. And while having lots of money would be nice, many of us nurses simply want to help people. That’s why we went into nursing in the first place, right? In addition to these altruistic reasons for our career choices, I’d also wager that most -if not all- of us also want to be happy and enjoy our nursing careers.

That being said… [Tweet “Here are 3 Questions to Ask Yourself when Making a Continuing Education Decision.”]

  1. What do I desire? Many of us go back to school because we see other people doing it. Or it’s the next logical step in our career progression. I know that’s why I went back to receive my MSN/MBA. I figured I had been out of school long enough and it was the next ‘right’ thing to do (not a reason to go back to school, by the way). Take out a blank sheet of paper and ask yourself: what is it I want to do with my life? What would my ‘dream job’ be? Write down what your ideal nursing career would look, feel and be like. Hold nothing back: this is the ideal vision of your best self.
  2. Where am I now? Take honest stock of  your current career situation. Do you love it? What skills, knowledge or abilities do you need? How far (really, be honest here), how far are you from your ideal nursing career that you wrote about in question one above. The first step to any forward change, to reaching any desired goal, is an honest and thorough assessment of your current reality. This will help inform you what you need to do to start taking the necessary and correct steps forward.
  3. How can I reach my goal? You’ve painted a clear picture of where you’d like to be. You’re honest with yourself on where you are now. You can visually see the gap between the two. Now that you have this clarity you can ask yourself, what is it I truly need to move myself forward towards my goals? If you hear the answer ‘more nursing education’ inside of yourself, then go for it. If not, it’s time to figure out what guidance, support or training you do actually need to reach your career goals.

Let’s hear from you. What did we miss? What questions do you ask yourself when making career decisions? How do you decide if continuing your nursing education is the next logical step for you? Leave a comment below, and thank you for reading. Enjoy the day!

(This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at The Days When I’m Not A Nurse. Find out how to participate.)

21 Comments

  1. bethboynton80539889

    Great questions, Elizabeth. I believe that part of our commitment to our selves and patients in becoming nurses includes a lifelong path of continuing education whether big steps involving academic progression or smaller ones involving CEUs. Having inspiring options like the upcoming AON 2.0 is so exciting to me b/c not only does it provide continuing ed, but it also inspires us to be on a learning path. This is something that some of the mandatory stuff misses!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Hi Beth,

      Great to hear from you! Thank you for visiting the blog and sharing your comments. You bring up a great point; education comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It is true we can learn from every single experience. Thanks for adding this to the discussion,

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  2. Erica MacDonald

    Elizabeth,
    I love your three step process to use when deciding if more education is what you really need. Many times we actually already have the “knowledge” but what is lacking is a step by step action plan. Also, your point about sometimes needing guidance and support (not more education) is spot on for many people. Support can really make a difference if you are having trouble implementing your action plan. Btw, I am really looking forward to your Art of Nursing 2.0 event! Last year was awesome!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Hi Erica,

      Thanks for coming by and taking the time to share your thoughts. I am happy that you enjoyed the post, particularly the point about asking for and receiving guidance and support. The more clear we are on what we need, the easier things will flow for us. I too am looking forward to the Nurse’s Week program and am so happy you will be joining us again.

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  3. Yoga Nurse

    I resonated with your sharing about ‘Taking stock of your current nursing situation…your current reality’- is essential. There are endless possibilities for nurses to get education and get on the nursing career path which uplifts them and uplifts their patients. Continuing nursing education is the life blood of our practice.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Hi Annette,

      Thank you for sharing your additional insights. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed the post and that being in our current reality resonated with you. It’s true that we cannot make changes to a new destination if we do not know where we are starting from. So glad you came by, enjoy the day.

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  4. TheNerdyNurse

    Elizabeth,

    I’ve considered going to school to get my MSN. I am a huge advocate of nurses continuing education, but I’m apprehensive to pursue a degree that I don’t think would improve my livelihood and primarily just serve as an affirmation of my knowledge or skill level.

    How long were you out of nursing school before you went back?

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Hi Brittney,

      Let’s see… I did an accelerated nursing program for my BSN. Graduated that and started work right away on a psychiatric unit. Worked for… about a year and a half, then took a semester of classes for a Forensic Nursing degree. Hated it! Switched to the MSN/MBA in the spring. So I’d say I was working about two years before starting my master’s. I worked full-time and went to school at the same time.

      I do agree with you though, if it isn’t going to serve your ideal dream career… then what’s the point? I am happy to hear you are weighing all of the pros and cons.

      Enjoy the day,

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  5. Nurse Beth

    I think this is a great topic, Elizabeth. It’s so important to know yourself, and what’s right for you. I myself love education just for the sake of learning- even if it doesn’t advance my career. But taking on the commitment of going back to school has to fit in with the rest of your life and responsibilities.
    It’s a highly individual decision.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Very true, Beth. What works for one may not work for all. Glad to hear you bring your passions into your work! Thanks for reading- Elizabeth

      Reply
  6. Greg Mercer, MSN

    You offer sound advice and I likfe the 3 step approach! FOr me it’s all about opportunity cost. I f I had infinite time and money, I’d never stop taking classes, but the costs on both fronts can be heavy. I have learned to weigh the practical impact of any form of education versus those costs. No easy answers! Avoiding debt is worthwhile if of itself though – Greg

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Greg,

      Great point about weighing the pros and cons of any decision. I appreciate you sharing your input on this timely topic. Enjoy the day,

      Elizabeth

      Reply
      • Greg Mercer, MSN

        Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I went with your three step bit, it’s a fine one, but couldn’t help repeating it 🙂

        Reply
  7. Joyce

    I love your 3 Questions. Every nurse should not only ask those questions, but seek guidance from other experienced nurses. I’ve seen too many nurses start advanced degrees in expensive colleges, and drop out -but they still have to pay the loan they took. I’m a firm believer in having a visual board. Nurses need to map out where they see themselves in the future.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Totally agree, Joyce. A vision for where we are going is key to our success. Thank you for coming by and sharing your comments. Enjoy the day! Elizabeth

      Reply
  8. Marsha @ The Bossy Nurse

    Hi Elizabeth! I love this post. Especially that you point out how we often think our next logical step should be by default: more education. I struggled with that in the past and can appreciate your step-by-step approach. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Thanks Marsha, Yes our logical minds move towards what is safe and comfortable. When we follow our hearts… now that can be scary, yet fun! Thanks for stopping by. -Elizabeth

      Reply
  9. Dr Rachel Silva, NP

    Elizabeth,

    I think your article touches on one of the most important concepts of character – honesty. Being honest with our genuine intensions leads us down the right path. Learning is a lifelong journey, but the desired goal and path is a choice of the heart. Honestly.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I enjoy reading from your writing, it always makes me stop and ponder more on the subject.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Dr Rachel,

      Thanks for coming by and taking the time to share your thoughts. I do agree- being honest with ourselves, listening to what we truly want… these are things that are going to lead us to joy and success.

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  10. Lorie Brown

    Hi Elizabeth, You hit the nail on the head with your authenticity. Many of us keep looking outside of ourselves to fulfill our needs instead of taking classes and doing things to nurture the inside.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Hi Lorie,

      Thanks for your agreement on this post. I am so glad that you also see the need for us being authentic and true to our unique selves. Thanks for reading and enjoy the day,

      Elizabeth

      Reply

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