• NU - Moving_Up

    Advice From Kaplan University Nursing Professor Barb Gunderson

    You’re confident that you are a great nurse. You love your profession and are passionate about giving your patients the best care possible. You have performed hundreds of physical exams and health histories, administered medications, interpreted patient information, and helped research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes. But you want more out of your nursing career.  

    Barb Gunderson, a 40-year nursing veteran and a professor at Kaplan University for over a decade, provides her advice on how to move ahead in the profession.  

    Barb has worked in nearly every facet of nursing throughout her distinguished career. She has served in the hospital, medical, surgical, and coronary ICU settings, worked in home health and hospice, and also served as a pediatric nurse practitioner at a community clinic.  

    “Nursing is so broad,” Barb says. “The beauty is that there are so many different specialties. You can try new things all of the time! There’s OB, ER, cardiac care, pediatrics, oncology, orthopedics, hospitals, long-term care, home health, schools, industry, public health, and education. There is always a new challenge awaiting you, if you want it!” 

    To enter and build a career in nursing, you must earn your associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree in order to take the national licensing exam to become a registered nurse (RN). After you obtain some experience in the field, you may want to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). 

    “Nurses are life-long learners,” Barb continued. “You have to build on your basic education if you go into a specialization. When you continue with your education, more doors open for you. It shows that you’re motivated, interested in bettering yourself, and that you take the time and energy to learn more.” 

    Barb’s advice to those looking to grow in the nursing field is to network and make connections in the industry. She suggests volunteering in your community, and serving on committees at your workplace. She also recommends attending health fairs where you can meet colleagues and prospective employers. 

    Barb also notes that you can join professional organizations to gain continuing education (CE) credit. The American Nurses Association (ANA), National League for Nursing (NLN), and the Kaplan University Nursing Honor Society (Sigma Theta Tau) are also great places to learn and network with colleagues. 

    “With baby boomers aging and retiring, there are great opportunities for nurses. That said, as you think about moving into different areas, you need to ask yourself, are you willing to move away from the patients?” 

    Barb discusses how you may want to move into administration and managing people, which could be a great choice if you are a positive, motivated person with vision. You also should be organized, decisive, able to meet deadlines, and viewed as a role model for others. You’ll also need confidence—and the ability to make some tough decisions.  

    Another area of nursing Barb recommends is research. You can obtain your doctorate degree to become a nurse researcher and work in a university setting or in a lab.  

    In addition, Barb notes that becoming a nurse practitioner is a popular choice. “Nurses are more steadily earning their master’s degrees to become an NP as they look for more authority in their practice. It was originally a position developed to reach the underserved, but a nurse practitioner has more responsibility and control over the patient, and more responsibility assisting physicians. They can prescribe medication, order tests, and manage patient care,” she notes. 

    Whatever career path you choose in nursing, Barb recommends that you choose a specialization that fits your attributes and lifestyle. “For instance, if you have young children, you may want a more flexible schedule that includes working weekends so you can be home with your children during the week. If you like a schedule that fits with your school-age kids, you could become a school nurse and have similar hours. Perhaps you want to have your days free—you could work evening shifts at a local hospital. There are so many choices in the nursing profession, the sky is the limit!” 



    For comprehensive consumer information, visit www.kaplanuniversity.edu/student-consumer-information.aspx.

    Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. 

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