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Nursing is a career that can provide great personal development opportunities in addition to increasing job-related knowledge and skills. Avenues to self-growth and wisdom may be formal or informal in nature and sometimes lead to changes in practice areas or philosophical shifts in how the discipline is practiced, whatever the given specialty. Formal means of personal development in nursing include certification in current or new areas of practice, changing specialties or areas of specialization, and continuing education. Informal opportunities for personal development in nursing can include mentoring and volunteering, among other options.
Certification is usually among one of the first steps a nurse undertakes as a formal type of personal development. This process usually requires a minimum amount of practice time in the specialty, passing a certification examination, and often, meeting continuing education requirements in the field to maintain the new credentials. For the nurse, in addition to the new initials denoting the certification to add to his or her signature, credentialing is a public mark of competency. Changing specialties can also be a type of personal development in nursing. The multitude of different areas, specialties and types of nursing practice helps ensure that burnout or fatigue in one area need not mean retirement from the profession itself.
Education is a major path to personal development in nursing. Continuing education may be voluntary or required by a nurse's state or country of practice. Regardless of motive, continuing education helps with the dissemination of timely clinical information regardless of when a nurse formally completed nursing school. Many nurses formally pursue higher degrees as part of their personal development, earning a bachelor's or master's degree in the field. These higher degrees may allow a nurse to leave a clinical nursing specialty to enter management or to teach upcoming nursing students.
Another type of personal development in nursing is that of mentoring a new graduate or a nurse new to a specialized unit. Depending upon the facility and the specific unit, this relationship may or may not be formalized. In any case, mentoring is a valuable experience to both parties and allows the mentor to reflect and summarize his or her own working knowledge for the less experienced mentee. In turn, the mentee is given time to learn new skills and practice under close supervision.
Volunteering is another way to achieve personal development in nursing. These opportunities can be exotic as traveling abroad to third-world countries or as familiar as practicing in a local homeless shelter. The timing of volunteer work may vary from a regular, ongoing four hours a week to taking a six-month sabbatical. Whatever the type or length of volunteer work, the nurse will be challenged beyond his or her usual clinical practice skills and problem-solving while giving to those in need.
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