What is Your 5-Year Plan?

Reaching for your goals
My answer is usually I don’t know.

Recently, I was speaking to a colleague about my career goals. I’ve always had goals and outcomes I have wanted to achieve personally and professionally, but I have never had a 5 or 10-year plan related to my nursing career.

Whenever I’ve spoken with recruiters, which I do every so often to weigh my options and analyze the job market (plus you never know when the next opportunity will come along), my answer to the “where will you be in 5 years” question seems to give some of them pause.

My answer is usually I don’t know. I go on to explain my answer by telling them that no matter what role I’m working in, I want to contribute to healthcare positively.

My answer is usually I don’t know. I go on to explain my answer by telling them that no matter what role I’m working in, I want to contribute to healthcare positively. 

When I began my career working at the bedside, I knew I was going to spend a certain amount of time on a medical-surgical unit—I didn’t expect it to be 7 years. However, I was very satisfied with this unit because I had the support I needed to learn how to be a nurse and care for patients.

The patient population provided variety, and my coworkers and I enjoyed working with one another. While on that unit, I took advantage of opportunities to grow professionally. I learned how to be a charge nurse, I precepted new staff members, and I joined the unit and hospital committees.

Whenever I would start to feel a little stagnant, I would find something new to do, like going to a conference, joining a professional organization (AMSN!), or starting my master’s degree in organizational leadership.

Towards the end of that 7 years, I got an opportunity to apply for a nurse manager role, and I felt ready with my experience in patient care, leadership, and my pursuit of a master’s degree.

I got the job on a trauma/surgical unit and was challenged in new and different ways. I learned that being a nurse manager meant ensuring high-quality patient care while truly taking care of the staff members who provided direct patient care.

Being a nurse manager is one of the hardest nursing jobs, in my opinion, but one of the most rewarding. I was not only rewarded by the improvements we saw as the patients healed and left the hospital, but I was also rewarded by the professional growth and family environment the team and I created together.

I continued to take advantage of the opportunities this role provided me and took on more responsibilities such as learning how to create a budget, do payroll, coached, and mentored staff and helped to train staff across the hospital when we implemented a new electronic health record.

As a nurse manager, I was able to have more influence over how resources were used and decisions were made across the health system.

While I was a nurse manager, I also served on AMSN committees and eventually became a member of the Board of Directors. If someone had asked me if I would serve on a national board of directors in my nursing career, I would have told them that wasn’t in my 5-year plan.

It simply wasn’t something I saw myself doing, but when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no, and I was excited about being selected. As an AMSN Board member, I have been able to be a voice for medical-surgical nurses and influence healthcare from a completely different angle. 

In 2018, I completed my doctorate of nursing practice also in organizational leadership. I had been looking for my next role, and the opportunity to consult came along. As a nurse consultant, I get to use everything I have learned so far in my career to impact healthcare across the country.

And I also got to achieve a goal I had a long time ago—I had wanted to be a travel nurse early in my career, and when I was about to make this career change, I met my husband and never did it. I tell you that tidbit because as a consultant, I get to travel to hospitals and health systems around the country to positively impact healthcare on a larger scale.

I still don’t know where I will be in 5 years, but I have built my nursing career foundation with education and a variety of experiences that will allow me to continue to help patients, staff, leaders, and stakeholders make healthcare better.

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