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Nursing positions are plentiful, right? But that doesn't guarantee that you'll get the job of your dreams. And if you're anticipating furthering your education in the future, what would separate you from many other qualified candidates seeking a spot in a competitive nursing program? To set yourself apart from the crowd, I recommend starting, keeping, and maintaining a professional portfolio as a record of your career accomplishments.
A professional portfolio, sometimes called a career binder or professional journal, is designed to empower you as you develop your career or search for a new position. Start building your portfolio now, even if you're just launching your nursing career. Here are some simple but important guidelines I recommend.
Get serious. Don't keep your professional record in a frilly or flowered binder. Remember, it represents you as a professional, so keep it simple and conservative. You want anyone who looks at your portfolio to focus on your clinical and scholarly accomplishments, not your personal taste or leisure activities. A three-ring binder in a subdued color is perfect.
Go for clear protection. Buy a package of sheet protectors-clear plastic pages with an opening on top and ring holes on the side. They let you avoid punching holes into valuable documents; you can also photocopy or scan your documents without removing them from the protectors.
Consider at least one clear business card protector page. These have ring holes on the side and hold from four to twelve business cards. Use this page to keep copies of your basic life support card, your state nursing license and any other certification or membership cards you acquire in the future.
Now, tell them who you are. Here's what you should include in your professional portfolio:
* Basic biographical information. Include your name, address, contact information, and nursing license number for quick reference.
* At least one copy of your current resume or curriculum vitae (CV). The choice of which to provide is yours; many nurses maintain both. Keep a resume to one page; your CV can be as long as necessary to list your accomplishments. I also keep a disk version in the back pocket of my portfolio in case my computer malfunctions. On disk, a resume or CV is easy to locate and update as needed.
* Membership materials from professional organizations you belong to, such as national, state or regional associations, student groups, and honor societies.
* Samples of work that you're especially proud of, such as patient-care plans or patient/family education materials you developed.
* A typed summation of any practicum or preceptorship programs you completed, including locations, dates, and notes or letters from your preceptors regarding your experience, if available. If you've served as a preceptor for others, note that as well.
* A typed summation or list of any presentations or talks you've given-for example, for your hospital unit, a class, or a community group. Include the dates, topic, length, and location.
* A typed list of references with their contact information or copies of letters from references you've already obtained. (Make sure you have your references' permission before you use their names in your portfolio.)
* Any continuing-education (CE) credits you've earned from classes, journal articles, conference attendance, and other sources-even if your state doesn't require CE credits. This is evidence of your commitment to furthering your own education and keeping current in your field.
* Thank-you notes or letters from patients, families, and colleagues reflecting your compassion, commitment, and clinical expertise.
The best part about your portfolio is that the content will change as you grow in your career. Make sure to review and update it regularly. In the future, perhaps you'll be adding awards or journal articles. Throughout your professional journey, your professional record is an enduring, singular, and portable synopsis of your career.
Does your health care facility have your back? To help clinicians establish and maintain a safe lifting program, Liko North America offers a free, five-part educational series of articles available for downloading from its Safe Lifting Portal Web site. The articles cover patient assessment (including how to make the need for assessment an "everyday habit"), choosing the right lift for patients with special needs, and infection control for lifts and slings. You can also sign up for a newsletter, which includes reader polls on lifting issues.
To download the articles, go to http://www.safeliftingportal.com/, or call 1-888-545-6671.
Anne Marie Bennett, RN, CCRN, MSN
For life-long learning and continuing professional development, come to Lippincott's NursingCenter.
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