By Edna B. Clifton, MBA, BSN, RN

Moving forward on your career path takes careful planning to match the educational plan to your professional goals. if you don’t have a clear focus, it is often difficult to really know where you want to go on your journey. One helpful tip is to meet with professionals that have chosen a particular career path and find out how they mapped their plan to achieve targets. There are so many areas in nursing to explore. Some of them include;

  • Case Management
  • Clinical specialties: Critical Care, Surgery, Emergency Care, Disease-Specific Certifications. Age-Specific Specialties and many more.
  • Advanced Practitioner: Midwife, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Family Practice Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing Administration
  • Patient Advocate

These are just a few of the opportunities available for nurses. You can also consider advanced degrees outside of Nursing that can boost your career in areas such as:

  • Law
  • Management

My Career Journey

My career path took many turns.  I started in critical care, where I developed and taught courses to prepare nurses to work in those areas. After five years of teaching, I moved into nursing administration. This was quite a drastic change, but there was a reason for this change. As an educator, I was teaching the best practices that nurses should follow, but I had no avenue to change policy to support the practices I was promoting. When the opportunity presented, I applied for and landed a nursing administration position. Leaning this role was quite a challenge because the orientation to the job was conducted by the person currently in the position. I did take advantage of management classes at the local college. While I truly believe that having a mentor is valuable in moving forward with your career, I strongly support taking a formal educational path to provide sound practices that promote proven theories to help you grow.

After a few years in administration, I realized that obtaining an advanced degree was critical to continuing on this path. I felt I had a sound foundation in management and determined that I needed more education in business practices. I explored graduate programs in Nursing, Public Health, and Business Administration. After meeting with Advisors from each of the programs and discussing the growth opportunities each provided, I chose to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration because it offered courses that aligned with my goals.  It also provided additional courses I had not previously considered such as Business Law, Marketing, and Quality Improvement. While the coursework was very different, it opened up opportunities that I had not previously considered.

New Opportunities

As a nurse, I had focused my career growth in a hospital setting. After earning my MBA, I had an opportunity to work with our local school system to develop quality improvement plans required to compete for Florida’s Sterling Award in Education. I also obtained a position in Finance at a large hospice organization.  Since I had a true passion for quality improvement and the processes required to develop a true quality improvement program, I later took a position as a Quality and Compliance Director where I developed organizational policy and measured client satisfaction with the goal of improving it.

Advice for You:

Determine where you want to go with your career and map out what you need to achieve your goals. Recognize that advancing your growth can be realized in many ways. Graduate degrees are not the only avenue. There are several career opportunities that can be reached through continuing education and certification. Explore the possibilities, set your plan, and go for it.

Edna Clifton is a registered nurse with over 30 years’ experience in health care.  Her focus has been quality improvement in a variety of healthcare settings including: acute care hospital, home health and hospice.  Currently, she is an independent consultant assisting providers in their quality improvement and accreditation efforts. Prior to this role, she led a team of professionals who worked with healthcare providers to improve their quality of patient through data analysis, root cause identification, action plan development.