1. Hader, Richard RN, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, PhD

Article Content

As children, map reading was one of the skills we were required to develop in elementary school. We began by learning the basics: understanding the meaning of directional symbols and grasping the tools required to navigate. Reading a map was similar to learning a new language. Sometimes we made mistakes because we didn't understand the "lay of the land," which caused us to get lost. Once we became more proficient and learned the essential components of map skills, we were challenged to chart a complex course to reach our destination. Through the process of mapping our path, we quickly learned we needed to make decisions by using critical-thinking skills to avoid roadblocks that could impede our ability to meet our objective. We often achieved success after simulating several routes prior to reaching a consensus on the most efficient trail to pursue. As nurse leaders, we must incorporate some of these same map skills when developing our own career path, with the end result of maximizing our own professional talent.

FIGURE. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. No caption available

Many of us entered the profession of nursing to care for patients at the bedside. Time passed, and we became more proficient and comfortable in our ability to succeed. We began to venture into uncharted territory as we attained the responsibility of leading others. Our role changed from novice map-reader to tour guide. We quickly realized that the requirements of the position necessitated the need for additional education and training. Questions began to emerge: How should we prepare ourselves for the future? Do we know our final destination?


As educated clinicians-turned-leaders, we're confronted with situations for which we're often unprepared. As we made the decision to change our career path from practitioner to leader, we assumed the additional responsibility of preparing ourselves by developing the necessary skills to be successful. Initially, we must ask ourselves, where do we want our career path to take us? What should our itineraries include? What tools are available to help us succeed?


Picture yourself 5 years from now. What role do you aspire to achieve? Are you content with your current position or do you want to assume greater responsibility and influence others more globally? These questions are important to answer, as they're the foundation you set when you begin to graph your course.


If you choose to remain in your current position, it's imperative that you continually incorporate new processes to revitalize and remotivate your staff. By staying up to date with nursing literature, becoming actively involved in professional organizations, and seeking opportunities to be innovative, you'll prove successful. Avoiding complacency will have a positive impact on those you lead. Remain willing to try new approaches or retry old methods even if they weren't successful in the past. Take the chance to try new paths as time often changes the landscape and provides new prospects to solve old problems.


Those who wish to move on to other positions need to define where they want to go. Networking, seeking additional education, volunteering to assume responsibility for new assignments, seeking advice from a mentor, and taking risks can all prove successful in building a professional portfolio that will be appealing to prospective employers.


Whether you wish to remain in your current position or move up the career ladder, you must develop a plan. Take control of your own journey, enhance your skills, and find the passageway to your professional success.