We learn things every day as nurses. We learn about our patients, we hunt down their issues and make a diagnosis with our learned knowledge, we learn how to handle these issues and we learn everything in between – but situations where you’re holding your favorite stethoscope to a patient’s chest shouldn’t be the only time that you’re learning as a nurse. Nursing is a role that’s propelled by lifelong learning and even depends on it as a lifeline. Whether it be simply to keep up with the ever-changing and challenging landscape or to advance or shift your career in a new direction, the reasons for lifelong learning in this role are as abundant as they are important.
An Ever-Changing and Ever More Challenging Landscape
The nature of the role calls for an ever-evolving set of skills because the landscape of healthcare is always changing and becoming more challenging than ever before. Not only are there natural changes occurring at an exceptional rate, but new knowledge is published at an accelerated pace and spread in an extremely accessible way. This means that along with natural advancements, you will see specifics of your skill set that you learned in school become obsolete – if you pay attention and stay proactive in lifelong learning, that is!
Patient Care Quality and Outcomes
It’s not just the professionals who keep current. Today’s patient is more educated than ever, too! Because a lot of the information and knowledge that you access as a nurse is published electronically, it can often be just as easy for patients to access it and interpret it (whether correctly or otherwise) and come to conclusions about their conditions. Combined with a current health and wellness kick across the country, many patients will expect you – as the nurse – to know more about their diagnosis than they do. And while you’re never actually expected to know it all, a commitment to continued education to continue improving patient outcomes is essential!
Lifelong learning leads to opportunities. Opportunities to keep yourself and your knowledge current, opportunities for intellectual growth and skill expansion, opportunities to explore your interests and opportunities to nurture these same amazing things in someone else. When you’re actively growing and excelling in things that relate to your career, you’re bound to also romanticize about, dream about and find excitement from it as well!
Frequently Refreshed Confidence
Well-informed and frequently refreshed nurses are bound to feel more confident in their abilities and role and, as a result, more stable in and satisfied with their role. If you’re a well-informed and frequently refreshed nurse who isn’t feeling this same level of satisfaction in your role for whatever reason and plan to move on, this confidence and commitment to continued education will still benefit you in the sense that you’ll be much more marketable!
Opportunities for Career Advancement
Lifelong learning can help nurses advance more easily in their careers and potentially even earn increased incomes. Career advancement can allow nurses to further pursue their passions and, along with the noted salary increase, can be accompanied by a desired change of scenery or patient population. For example, allowing a nurse to shift disciplines and switch out their sterile, stiff surgical scrubs for fun soft and exciting pediatric scrubs that they’ll truly excel in, or vice versa! This reason for lifelong learning is one that calls for far heavier learning sessions than others, but is also one that can have a much more immediate and obvious kind of gratification.
Lifelong Learning Strategies
Endless learning strategies exist for nurses to continue their education and come in channels ranging from highly formal to highly informal. Each strategy has its own pros and cons, but identifying an appropriate strategy for yourself from both a personal and professional viewpoint is the first step to a future full of pros – and you’ll be one of them!
- Enrolling in school programs, whether online or in-person, and whether to obtain a simple certification or a specialty certification. Seeking higher education in this way is a big pursuit that often demands a big time commitment and financial costs – but it is also one that’s often accompanied by big opportunities, benefits and payoffs.
- Attending conferences, seminars or lectures, or similarly, watching online webinars and videos. In today’s world, it’s become common for professionals and experts to share their wisdom in a very accessible way – so access and take advantage of it!
- Joining nursing associations is a great way to expand your understanding of the field and gain valuable and relevant information. And while you won’t be cramming knowledge in the same capacity as you would at school or in a conference, you will likely find yourself gaining a broader view of world health issues, inside information on your role and insights on your path.
- Receiving on-the-job training by either requesting it, or by leveraging peers and mentors. Not only will this allow you to actively continue growing, but it will also help you understand the importance of teamwork and appreciate the value of working on a team and having access to/swapping knowledge.
- Self-led learning through initiatives like researching and reading nursing articles, journals, studies and reports, or putting in the appropriate time and effort to educate yourself on new concepts, medications, equipment or otherwise when you encounter them for the first time.
- Natural, passive learning through simple but significant observations and even experiments like, for instance, trying out fun Disney scrubs as a pediatric nurse to see if kids respond better to you.
You’re on the Right Path!
Continued education is an essential requirement of the role, and an element that demonstrates to patients and other professionals alike that you are committed to improving the health of those around you. Luckily, as a nurse, you hold the key to your own professional development. As we’ve seen, this path may look very different for different nurses – but just by looking up the topic and reading this article, we can tell you’re on the right path!