Attending nursing school is a challenging and rewarding venture, and there is excitement when an individual makes it through successfully and embarks on a new career. However, the learning does not stop when a student graduates and leaves school. It is important for nurses to continue learning after nursing school for many reasons including improving patient care, meeting professional standards, opportunities to advance, maintaining a competitive edge, building critical thinking skills, and maintaining licensure. Lifelong learning is essential for nurses as medical technology and procedures are always improving, and there are many ways new nurses can pursue higher education.
There are several reasons why lifelong learning is so essential to a nurse’s career, including improving patient care, meeting professional standards, and enhancing critical thinking skills, among other reasons.
Improving patient care
One of the most important reasons for continuing to learn is to improve patient care. Further education allows nurses to stay up to date on new developments and advancements in the field of nursing, including new technologies, treatments, and best practices. Educational programs for nurses include technical aspects of the job, and teach soft skills that are important for every nurse. Skills such as empathy, communication, and patience are essential in patient care when dealing with patients and their family members who are uncertain of medical procedures and may have a lot of questions. Nurses are usually the face of the medical team, so it is natural that they are the first to be asked about procedures, risks, and other concerns. By updating their soft skills, nurses can effectively deal with these questions and communicate clearly with compassion.
Healthcare is a dynamic environment that is constantly updating and improving standards of care. It is an area where technology is constantly evolving and providing newer, faster, and more accurate ways of treating patients. For nurses who keep up with the latest developments, it is an exciting time of learning and honing skills that will take them into higher positions in the future and allow them to offer the very best in patient care. Nurses who constantly update their skills are more likely to pass this information on to their colleagues and teach new methods to new nurses so that everyone benefits. Nurses committed to continually updating their skills and knowledge are informed of new evidence-based practices that can lead to better patient care outcomes.
Meeting professional standards
There is a certain professional standard that nurses need to uphold when dealing with patients, and they always need to be updating their knowledge and skills to provide the best and most innovative care possible. Nurses are in the frontline position of patient care, so their standards should exceed expectations, and the only way to do that is to be aware of the latest in healthcare. Like any other member of a healthcare team, nurses have an obligation to their patients to make sure they are constantly refreshing their knowledge and adding to it.
Enhancing critical thinking skills
By continuing to learn and expand their knowledge base, nurses can enhance their critical thinking skills, which can help them make informed clinical decisions and better evaluate patient care options. Continuing education also allows nurses to learn about new treatments, medications, and technologies that can improve patient care. Nurses can use this information to critically evaluate whether they should integrate these new findings into their practice.
Lifelong learning provides nurses with an opportunity to use their critical thinking skills and new knowledge in real-time situations on the job. This often includes presenting case studies where nurses need to analyze, interpret, and develop a plan of care based on the information presented. This type of learning enhances critical thinking skills by allowing the nurse to evaluate a complex case.
Further education in the form of seminars, workshops, and online courses gives nurses the chance to network with others in the same profession who may have unique perspectives and extensive knowledge they can share. This type of learning helps with critical thinking skills because it can challenge individual biases and assumptions.
Continuous learning through online courses and advanced degree programs can bring nurses to another level in their careers, where they move into leadership roles. For example, studying for an advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner can lead to more autonomy for a nurse, better pay, and most importantly, the ability to treat patients as they see fit. Nurses can also move up in other directions, such as administrators, board members, and managers in their institutions, and impart their constantly evolving knowledge to their team members.
Employers appreciate nurses who show a commitment to furthering their education, especially when they take it upon themselves to teach others in their department. Specialized areas of nursing require additional certifications or education, which can open up new job opportunities and more chances to make real changes in the profession.
Exploring travel nursing jobs by state can help you discover opportunities in different regions, each with its unique healthcare needs and job openings, allowing you to contribute your expertise where it’s needed most and make a positive impact in various healthcare settings.
Nurses committed to lifelong learning in their profession also demonstrate confidence in their abilities and are more likely to stay in the profession long-term. It also provides an opportunity to network with other like-minded nurses and medical staff and learn of new career opportunities they may not have been aware of.
A little healthy competition can be good for nurses, patients, and the medical community as a whole. A competitive spirit pushes individuals to achieve more and apply their knowledge to provide the very best in patient care. As the healthcare industry evolves, there will be more competition for higher nursing positions, so those committed to lifelong learning will have a leg up.
Ways nurses can further their education
Continuing education is essential for nurses as it can help them to stay current in their profession and improve their patient care. Here are some things that nurses can do to continue learning after nursing school:
Find a mentor
Mentors in nursing hold a place of importance because they are responsible for guiding junior nurses through the challenges and complexities of their profession. Mentors have extensive knowledge and experience in nursing, which puts them in a unique position to help their mentees make quick decisions and offer advice on difficult cases. With the shortage of nurses in the United States, there is an urgent need for competent and knowledgeable mentors who can provide needed support to mentees and increase employee retention.
Mentorship programs also increase retention in new nursing staff because the mentee feels supported and cared for. Mentors can also introduce junior nurses to members of the healthcare community who can help them in their careers, which provides a mentee with confidence in their future. A nurse just starting in their career can learn a tremendous amount from their mentors, including which seminars and online courses to look for to increase their knowledge. This relationship is a long-lasting one that benefits both parties and makes sure the mentee is set up for success right out of nursing school.
Attend conferences and workshops
Conferences and workshops in the nursing field provide opportunities for nurses to learn from industry experts and network with other healthcare professionals. This provides opportunities for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and the creation of professional relationships that can be beneficial in the long term.
Continuing education units (CEUs) are credits that healthcare professionals accumulate to maintain their licensing. These units are often awarded for attending conferences, seminars, and workshops because it shows the nurse’s commitment to continuing their education and continuously improving patient care.
These events are a perfect forum for networking and meeting professionals with the same drive and passion as those entering nursing. Nurses can learn about new techniques and practices they may not otherwise be privy to and take that knowledge back to their colleagues. This provides an opportunity not just to learn but to teach and develop leadership skills within their organizations.
These events can be inspiring and uplifting, especially when a speaker connects with the attendees. Hearing from medical professionals who share their struggles or have overcome odds to provide excellent patient care can push new nurses to strive for greater things and improve their own knowledge. This type of passion can impress employers and lead to offers in higher positions with more responsibility and autonomy.
Pursue advanced degrees
Pursuing an advanced degree in nursing is an excellent way for nurses to promote professional development and embrace lifelong learning. They gain new knowledge, skills, and confidence that can inspire continued learning throughout their careers. They can also contribute to the nursing profession by sharing their expertise with colleagues, mentoring new nurses, and participating in academic research.
Advanced degrees such as the TWU MSN FNP provides nurses with higher credentials that lead to better career opportunities with increased salaries, more responsibility, and greater autonomy. With online schools providing flexible schedules and dynamic curricula, it is much easier for working nurses to carve out the time for further education during their hectic days. Nurses with higher education are looked at when managerial and executive roles are available because they add real-world experience with advanced training.
Read industry journals and books
While print is on its way out and e-books are the wave of the future, reading industry journals and e-books to learn about advancements in healthcare, new treatments or procedures, and emerging trends can help nurses stay up to date in their field. Compassion and a desire to help are not always enough to provide the very best in patient care, so nurses need to constantly be up to date on the latest innovations and technologies that can make their job more effective.
This type of education is probably the easiest to engage in, as it can be done during downtime or on breaks. E-books can also be purchased on readers that a nurse can listen to while performing other tasks that do not require a lot of concentration.
Industry journals should also be readily available in most medical organizations. If they aren’t, then nurses need to advocate for their employers to invest in these journals to keep everyone involved up to date on advancements and innovations in the field of medicine.
Join nursing associations or organizations
Nursing associations and organizations offer opportunities for nurses to connect with peers and participate in continuing education opportunities. They offer access to a variety of resources such as educational materials, research updates, and best practices that can help nurses stay informed and up to date with current developments.
By joining these organizations, nurses can network with other professionals in their field and learn new ideas, techniques, and perspectives. They can also learn about new fields they may not have been aware of or new opportunities in their current area of expertise.
Nursing associations can offer their members events for learning through webinars, training programs, conferences, and workshops, among others. By being a member of these organizations, new nurses can update their learning constantly and learn as they work. Nursing associations often offer mentorship programs so new nurses can be paired with seasoned professionals in their field.
Attend webinars and online courses
Nowadays, online learning has become a normal part of everyday life in some professions. Online schooling, training, and certification have made it easier for professionals who still need to work to upgrade their skills in their free time. If the course is related to their current position, they can even take time at work if their organization feels it is warranted. There are some instances where the employer will pay for the webinar or course if they think it will enhance the employee’s current position. Attending webinars and online courses can be extremely beneficial for nurses. Nurses can stay up to date with the latest research, trends, and treatment protocols by attending online courses and webinars. Access to new knowledge and skills can help nurses provide better care to their patients by offering expanded treatment options and approaches.
Connecting with other healthcare professionals through interactive online forums or real-time webinars can provide opportunities to collaborate, share best practices, and learn from each other. Nurses who attend online courses or webinars may gain additional qualifications or credit hours, which can improve their job prospects and help them advance in their careers. Online courses and webinars offer nurses more flexibility and convenience than traditional in-person training programs, allowing them to continue their education while managing their busy schedules.
Participate in training programs
Training programs are a great way for new nurses to enhance their knowledge and update their skills. These programs can include organizational tips, teach leadership skills, and skills that are specific to a nurse’s field. Training programs can also teach nurses communication skills that will help them talk to patients and their families clearly and empathetically. New nurses will find that their job takes up all their time, so some training courses can be done online to fit in with the nurse’s schedule. Most organizations recognize the importance of lifelong learning and will accommodate a new nurse’s schedule to include time for these important training events.
Nurses today are valuable and respected members of the healthcare community and should learn to advocate for their own educational needs. If there is a technique or skill that a nurse feels will benefit their patients, then some institutions will provide that training or send them to a specific course. Advocating for educational needs is an education in itself, as it teaches leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills that employers are looking for when filling higher positions.
A strong commitment to lifelong learning is one of the keys to success for any nurse. These healthcare professionals can improve patient care, meet professional standards, enhance their critical thinking skills, and take advantage of career advancement opportunities. By continuing to learn and pursue educational opportunities, nurses can enhance their skills and broaden their knowledge base, which can positively impact patient care and career advancement.
There are many ways nurses can further their education after they leave nursing school. From finding a mentor to participating in training sessions, nurses can pursue lifelong learning to enhance their skills, move up in their careers, and make a huge difference in the lives of their patients. With opportunities available online and in person, new nurses can use lifelong learning to attain excellence in their roles. When nurses are committed to lifelong learning, their confidence rises, their job satisfaction improves, and everyone in healthcare benefits.