How To Stay On Track In Your Nursing Career

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No one is going to like absolutely every part of their job. Even if you are working in your dream career, there will be parts of it that you don’t enjoy and elements that you aren’t as good at as others. Or perhaps, even if you do love everything about what you do, there will be days that don’t go accordingly plan. In any of these situations, it can become easier to start thinking about what other jobs you might be capable of doing and whether it’s worth switching your career. Of course, everyone is tempted like this from time to time. 

However, although changing jobs or completely going back to the drawing board and starting fresh in a new industry is the right thing for some people to do, for others, it’s not ideal. In fact, they would be better off staying in their current careers and working out why some parts of it – and some days – aren’t as good as others. 

Nursing is a prime example of this. Nurses get tired, they certainly have bad days (as anyone would when working with unwell people and those who are possibly even at the end of their lives), they work hard, and they might at times feel unappreciated. Or perhaps they are tempted by an ‘easier’ career path somewhere else. This is when ‘mission drift’ starts to set in, and a nurse might start to think that their chosen career is no longer for them. 

If you are a nurse and you have experienced this kind of feeling, then it’s important to understand whether or not this is you slightly veering off track or whether it’s you subconsciously telling yourself that it’s time to try something new. If it’s the latter, then certainly have a look around. If it’s the former, however, then it’s important that you get your career and life back on track as soon as possible and then stay there, working in the right direction. Read on to find out how to go about that and what it entails when you are a nurse who wants to stay on track in your career. 

Knowing Where It Went Wrong

There is no way you can really put your career back on the right track until you understand where things went wrong in the first place. If you don’t spend time looking into what happened to make you feel the way you do, and that made you stray off the path you were originally going down, you may well make the same choices again, and you’ll be no better at a position. 

Go back to the start, when you first decided you wanted to be a nurse. What was it that drove you? What made you excited about a career in nursing? What did you want to achieve? Thinking back to this time will help you see where your career is now in comparison to where you wanted it to be, and that will give you an idea of where the mission drift began. 

If there was nothing that went wrong right at the start, move on to the next stage of your career. Was it at the first healthcare institute you worked at? Was it the first mistake you made? Was it when you wanted to apply for a promotion only to find that you hadn’t got the experience or qualifications that were needed? 

It may not be easy to work out where your career started to go off track, and it may well be something that happened over time, but if you can start to gauge where the change happened, you might be able to turn things around. For example, if it is your place of work that has made you unhappy, find a new one. If it was a mistake that you can’t stop thinking about, what lessons did you learn? If it was a missed promotion, consider whether a specialist nursing course at Carson-Newman University would be of use and help you get the job you are looking for. 

Doing something about your mission drift and changing your outlook can help you to enjoy nursing once more and move forward with your career and your life. 

Realize That People Change 

It’s a fact that people change. No one can possibly stay exactly the same forever because their life experiences will alter them in some way, whether it’s mentally, emotionally, or even physically. As we go through life, we become different people depending on who or what or where we have come into contact with or had any kind of connection to. This means that, even if you were one person when you started your nursing career, you’d certainly be a different one some time later. You might be a more assertive person, a more capable leader, someone who is more able to keep their emotions in check, or perhaps a person who has realized that there are more important things in life than work or that they value different things now than they did, which makes being a nurse much more difficult. 

It could be that you change so much that even though nursing was the only thing you could ever see yourself doing or being involved with, now it’s not. That’s perfectly fine; you shouldn’t feel guilty if that is the case, and your mission drift is really a sign that you should look into other areas to work in. 

We are at work so much of the time in our lives that there is no point in doing anything that isn’t just right (even if there are still going to be bad days, as mentioned above). If your feelings about nursing have changed since the time you first started, then see what else you might be able to do. The wonderful thing about nursing is that you will have developed a lot of useful skills such as punctuality, communication, leadership, and teamwork, all of which can be of great use in any other career. 

However, if you don’t want to leave the world of nursing and you simply feel that you could do with a change because you yourself have changed, that’s fine too. There are so many different avenues to go down that if you start to feel yourself going slightly off track, it might not be a case or realigning yourself and going back to what you are doing; it might be a case of following your new direction and seeing where it takes you within the field of nursing. 

Creating Your Future 

Once you know where things might have gone wrong in the past, you can start looking towards the future. You have now identified the issue, and you can put things right so that you reach your goals and have the future you envision for yourself. This is how you can have a future to look forward to. 

Having goals is an ideal way to overcome mission drift and ensure that everything is going in the way you want it to. Ideally, you should have a long-term goal – or more than one – which has been broken down into many smaller, shorter-term goals. In this way, you can plot out a career path, ensuring that you stay on that path and don’t get distracted. By taking each small goal at a time and working through each one until you get to the end goal, you will always know what the next step is what is coming next. 

Of course, it’s important to understand that sometimes these plans will have to be changed and that being adaptable and flexible is not the same as having mission drift. 

If you can’t work out where it is you want to be in the future, it’s a good idea to find someone to speak to. A mentor who has already achieved what they want to achieve is a great option; many nurses find they benefit greatly from having a mentor they know they can speak to, run ideas by, and unload to if need be. Speak to your mentor about the kinds of things you could be aiming for in your career, and once you have a better idea, you can start putting your goals into practice. Soon enough, you’ll be back on track. 

Changing Expectations 

One of the main reasons that nurses experience mission drift is that they expect their role as a nurse to be something other than what it is. This might be due to what they have seen in the media, what others have told them, or just because they didn’t do enough research before, they applied for their nursing degree. 

The problem is that when expectations are subverted in this way, it can be hard to really enjoy the work you are doing, even if there is nothing technically wrong with it, and even if you have all the knowledge and experience you need to do it well. It’s a shame when this happens, as those who are unable to change their expectations run the risk of having to change their careers entirely unless they want to be miserable. 

This is the key, of course; if your expectations are not being met, you need to consider why this is. If the answer is that you had the wrong expectations, to begin with, then that’s what needs to change; you must work out what it is you should be expecting (as far as possible) and start working on that premise instead. In that way, you can enjoy your work more and stay on track with your career much more easily. 

Expand And Refresh Your Network 

If you are in a rut at work and starting to feel as though you are losing momentum and falling away from the career path you set out for yourself, another great way to put things back where they should be and get past your mission drift is to expand your network. In this way, you will meet new people, which is always a positive thing, but you will also be able to discuss your career, your ideas and ask about how to get back on track. Or perhaps this new network will give you a fresh perspective on what you are doing and show you another route to reach the same goal or a new goal entirely. 

Look online for networking websites or search for some local meetings that you could attend. Sometimes just having the chance to speak to someone who understands what mission drift really feels like can be enough to help you reassess and realign with your goals. 

Learn What Motivates You

A lack of motivation can be devastating when it comes to your career goals. In nursing, exhaustion can play a big part in losing motivation, although there are many other reasons too. Make sure you take care of yourself and that you put yourself first, even if this is a hard lesson to learn. Once you do this, you’ll have a chance to gather your thoughts and recover. 

If you find that you still don’t feel motivated even once you have stepped away for a little while, it’s best to think about what does motivate you. This doesn’t mean looking outside the realm of nursing (although you can if you want to); it just means thinking about the areas of the job that you like the most and that make you want to do more in your career. Is there any way you can use these parts of the job to help steer you in the right – or a new – direction? 

Explore Small Changes 

If you are experiencing mission drift, you might assume that you need to make some big changes in your life, perhaps changing careers or at least changing your ultimate goals. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case; small changes can actually work wonders. 

Something as seemingly insignificant as getting a better pair of shoes can help you concentrate more, for example. Or deciding that now is the time to study hard for a promotion. Or perhaps asking your supervisor for something more challenging to do. Making small changes can bring you big rewards and ensure your nursing career is right on track.

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