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How to differentiate yourself in the competitive field of nursing

Date: July 26, 2016

Nursing jobs are on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions for registered nurses are expected to increase 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, creating 439,300 new jobs for qualified applicants. This news is good for recently licensed nurses and seasoned professionals alike. However, to secure one of these jobs, you likely will encounter a large amount of competition while working toward your goal. Consequently, it is important to make sure that you do everything you can to differentiate yourself from other nurses in your field.

Whether you have worked for years in health care, recently completed an online nursing degree or are newly licensed, landing your dream job is all about representing yourself effectively to employers. Use the following tips to prove to hiring managers that you are a qualified and enthusiastic applicant who will make a positive impact in their workplace.

Revamp your resume

If you are a recent graduate or simply looking for a new position after years in the field, taking time to revise your resume is a must. After all, when you apply for a job, often it is your resume alone that will make a potential employer decide to call you in for an interview. For this reason, you want to be sure that your resume not only accurately reflects you as a candidate but also gives you credit where credit is due. Start by creating a basic outline that lists your education — including any online nursing programs — and previous work experience.

Once you have your previous work written down, take some time to think about how to describe each position. Simply listing bullet points of what you were expected to do each day is not the most effective way to prove your worth to potential employers. According to the American Nurses Association, it is better to emphasize accomplishments rather than list daily tasks. For example, rather than writing “worked with pediatric patients,” opt for something that stresses what you accomplished, such as “provided high-quality care for 20 pediatric patients daily.” If you have any numbers related to your performance — such as “increased patient satisfaction rates by 10 percent over 12 months” — be sure to include those, as well. Supplying evidence to support your claims will make them more credible to potential employers.

It also is critical to emphasize your soft skills — the abilities that allow you to have successful interpersonal relationships with others. While your knowledge of and experiences in nursing will have equipped you with expertise in the execution of your position, your soft skills will help you to thrive in professional interactions with colleagues and others. American Nurse Today, the official journal of the American Nurses Association, reported that the top six soft skills named by the U.S. Department of Labor all have important relevance to the field of nursing. Those skills include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Professionalism
  • Enthusiasm/attitude
  • Networking

Finally, try to keep it short. While you may be tempted to include long descriptions of all your accomplishments, brevity is typically the best way to ensure that your resume is read from start to finish.

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Further your education

At one time, holding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) set you apart from your peers in the field. However, nursing education is shifting rapidly to address the increased call for quality and efficiency spurred by health care reform in the U.S. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report of critical importance called The Future of Nursing. The report recommended that, by 2020, 80 percent of active nurses should have at least a bachelor’s degree. Since that time, nursing education has become increasingly important for new and seasoned nurses alike.

Today, a BSN is becoming almost a requirement for new nurses. Even if you already have completed a BSN, you probably will find yourself up against other candidates with a bachelor’s degree when you apply for a new job or promotion. Set yourself apart from the competition with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). An MSN not only shows employers that you have the specialized knowledge and expertise supplied by additional academic curriculum but also that you are dedicated to pursuing excellence in your field and have the drive and commitment to complete an MSN.

When you earn an MSN in Nursing Administration online through Bradley University, you will be able to take courses at the time and place of your choosing via your computer, allowing you to pursue your education while also continuing to work in your field if you so choose. The skills that you gain in Bradley’s MSN – Nursing Administration online program will set you on the right track for a leadership position within your organization.

Create your own opportunities

Ultimately, if you want to set yourself apart from your competition, you cannot settle for only the opportunities that present themselves to you in the workplace. Sometimes, you need to look for ways to create your own chances for professional advancement. If you do not already have experience that will set you apart, consider looking for ways to volunteer your skills and time. Your local Red Cross or free clinics are good places to start. You may not get paid for volunteer work, but it will look good on your resume, give you the opportunity to make valuable connections with other people in health care and have a positive impact on your community.

You also can consider working as a travel nurse to gain experience in new areas. Hospitals and other health care organizations across the nation often have temporary openings that need to be covered due to employees on maternity leave, sabbatical or other short-term absences. As a travel nurse, you will be able to fill those roles, gaining experience and making connections along the way to a permanent position. This opportunity is especially great for new graduates who need clinical experience before applying for their dream job.

Finally, do not downplay the value of networking. The American Nurses Association recommended joining professional groups, participating in online forums and looking for other ways to reach out and cultivate new relationships with individuals in your field. But remember, networking works both ways. You also should look for opportunities to help advise and guide others who are newer to the nursing world. They, in turn, will be more inclined to do the same with others, creating a positive community that emphasizes teamwork and quality patient care.