How nurses can balance career advancement and personal wellbeing

For nurses, the issue of juggling career progression and personal wellness is always present, and failing to balance them properly can negatively impact both areas. Because the career demands a lot from nurses in terms of physical, emotional and mental effort, failing to promote personal wellbeing can eventually cause burnout. This means that it’s important to focus on each of these areas so that you can maximize your performance and realize your potential. In this article, we share some tips on balancing your health and your career, look at some ways to progress as a nurse, and explore specific advanced nursing roles.

Balancing career progression and wellbeing

Here are some ways that you can maintain a healthy rate of progression in your career without jeopardizing your personal wellbeing.

Set attainable goals

Setting clear and achievable goals is a good way to maximize your chances of success in any endeavor. It also allows you to experience the rewarding feelings that come with achievement, which can encourage you to accomplish more goals. Consider using the SMART goals system, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. 

Practice self-care

Indulging in self-care activities can help you recharge and perform optimally while at work. This includes things such as hobbies, exercise, meditation, socializing, and any other activities that improve your feeling of subjective wellbeing. Prioritizing your own care may go against your compassionate and selfless nature as a nurse, but it’s important to realize that you can’t provide the best standards of care without looking after yourself first and foremost.  

Get support

Support networks are vital for nurses, whether that’s with your colleagues or outside of work. Talking about your experiences can help you come to terms with stressful events and possibly get helpful feedback and advice. Try to be there for your colleagues when they need you, and they will likely do the same in return, which promotes an all-round positive workplace environment.  

Find a good work-life balance

Work-life balance is an important factor in ensuring healthy career growth alongside personal wellness. You can maintain a good work-life balance by getting more organized with your schedule. Set clear boundaries between work time and social time, and try to prevent the two from overlapping. This gives you adequate time to focus on both your personal life and working life. 

Focus on professional development

You can ensure professional growth by advancing your education and engaging in development opportunities. This may involve going back to university or simply asking for more responsibilities at work. Keeping professional development high on your list of priorities can help you prevent career stagnation and keep you engaged with your work. 

Take breaks

Regular breaks are necessary to prevent burnout and maintain personal wellbeing. Nurses can take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, meditate, or simply relax and recharge. Make sure that you take your allocated breaks, and have a drink and some food when you’re hungry or thirsty. 

Get adequate sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining good health in general, as it benefits you physically, mentally and emotionally. When not working night shifts, try to establish a healthy bedtime routine, going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day. You can also improve the quality of your sleep by creating a peaceful sleeping environment and avoiding electronic screens before bed. 

Speak to a professional

If you’re experiencing issues that are affecting your personal wellbeing or professional development, you may benefit from speaking to a counselor. These professionals can provide support and advice tailored to your situation. They can also help you create a strategy and a clear set of objectives for helping you achieve a balance between career advancement and personal wellbeing. 

Importance of promoting personal wellbeing as a nurse

Nursing requires mental, emotional and physical resilience, and it’s also essential to be clear-headed. When burnout takes hold, a nurse’s ability to perform their duties becomes jeopardized, so nurses must prioritize self-care to ensure that they can care for others. 

One of the main reasons for prioritizing self-care is to maintain care quality standards throughout healthcare organizations. Ensuring that the workforce isn’t stressed, tired, or emotionally drained helps to prevent mistakes and a general drop in quality standards. 

Various aspects of a nurse’s working conditions threaten to exacerbate feelings of burnout, such as long working hours, fast-paced working environments, and emotionally challenging patient interactions. Looking after yourself and following the advice provided above can help to reduce your chances of experiencing burnout. 

How to advance as a nurse

When trying to advance in your career as a nurse, it’s important to be proactive in your approach. Here are a few specific ways that you can advance your career in the nursing field.

Expand your education

Nurses can progress significantly in their careers by expanding their education and gaining advanced degrees. These include degrees such as the Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice. With these, you can access roles such as nurse practitioner, administrator or nurse educator, which unlocks new opportunities and boosts your earning potential. 

Gain certifications

Advancing your skills and knowledge through specialized certifications is an effective way to develop in your career. These can help you enter fields such as oncology, pediatrics and emergency care. Specialist certifications can help you gain recognition and proactively advance in your career. 

Expand your network

Networking is important in most professions, and nurses are no exception. Through networking, you can establish relationships with more experienced nurses who can offer you guidance and support, helping you to advance to their level. Consider going to nursing conferences and events, joining a professional organization, or using professional social media networking sites. 

Embrace leadership roles

Developing your leadership skills and forwarding yourself for leadership opportunities can help you gain the necessary skills for advancing in your career. Consider serving as a project team leader or a charge nurse, or acting as a leader to your peers by giving them advice and support. This can help you demonstrate your leadership potential and encourage organizational leaders to recognize you. 

Stay current

The field of nursing constantly evolves, so nurses must maintain awareness of important research and technological changes. You can do this by completing courses, attending workshops, subscribing to relevant newsletters, reading journals and publications, and becoming a member of nursing groups online. 

Seek new opportunities

Seeking new opportunities is a key aspect of advancing your career. Consider exploring new roles within your organization, or seeking out opportunities at other organizations. Working in different departments, such as emergency care or intensive care, can provide you with new experiences and broaden your knowledge in the nursing field.

Career advancement ideas for nurses

There are many possible routes to take to advance your nursing career, and because the industry is so dynamic, there’s always a need for nurses to innovate and expand their knowledge. Here are some examples of career advancement opportunities for nurses.

Specialist nursing

Becoming a specialist nurse can help you increase your value as a nurse because specialists are rarer and harder to replace than entry-level nurses. There is an abundance of specializations to consider, including oncology, emergency nursing and pediatrics. Specialist nursing roles are both challenging and rewarding, and represent an excellent way to progress in your career. 

Advanced practice nurse (APN)

APNs comprise professionals such as nurse anesthetists, midwives and nurse practitioners who have undergone extensive theoretical and clinical training. Unlike traditional nurses, APNs carry out duties such as diagnosing illnesses, interpreting diagnostic tests and prescribing medication.

Management and leadership

Moving into management and leadership positions is an effective way to advance your career. You can consider roles such as nurse administrator, nurse manager, chief nursing officer and director of nursing. These roles require you to have a strong understanding of healthcare administration, management, organization and leadership skills as professionals in these positions have a wide impact. 


If you’re interested in teaching, you can consider a career as a nurse educator. These nurses play a vital role in creating the next generation of nurses, and they often work in both healthcare and academic settings, transmitting their knowledge and experience in various ways. They also work with practicing nurses to train and guide them.


Those interested in medical research and medical subjects that impact the world can pursue a career in this area. This may involve working for the government, a private company, a research institution or a university. Nurse researchers work on various aspects of research, including designing studies, analyzing data and carrying out studies, all with the goal of developing new treatments and improving healthcare provision.


This is a relatively modern branch of nursing that combines technology with healthcare, and the field offers various opportunities for nurses looking to advance or specialize in their careers. If you’re interested in both technology and healthcare, you can use your expertise to drive improved outcomes for patients through informatics. 

International nursing

Those looking to explore new places and experience new cultures may be interested in working as an international nurse. You can achieve this in multiple ways, such as by volunteering, working in disaster relief, applying for nursing jobs abroad, or applying to work for a global healthcare organization. If you have foreign language skills, this can be additionally useful. 


Nurses with an entrepreneurial spirit can pursue a career as a nurse entrepreneur – for example, by starting their own business such as a consulting firm, home healthcare agency or educational program. You could also become a nurse health coach and work with clients on a one-to-one basis, helping them overcome health issues, such as obesity. 

Advanced nursing roles to consider

There are various specific advanced nursing positions to consider if you’re looking to advance in your career but aren’t sure which direction to take. They require advanced training and experience, which you can acquire through on-the-job training, certification programs and formal education. You can widen your responsibilities by entering advanced nursing positions, which means that you can have more of an impact on patient outcomes, besides commanding a higher salary. Some of the most commonly pursued advanced nursing roles are:

  • Nurse practitioner: These are licensed healthcare specialists that offer primary and specialty care to patients. They’re trained to assess patients, order and interpret lab tests, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medications. They also typically work closely with physicians. 
  • Clinical nurse specialist: These nurses specialize in a specific area, such as psychiatry, oncology or pediatrics. Their advanced training allows them to lead and manage other nurses, and they play a significant role in patient care. 
  • Nurse midwife: Midwives, or nurse midwives, specialize in caring for women and their relatives during pregnancy and childbirth. They help expectant parents with various things during pregnancy, and they also deliver babies
  • Nurse anesthetist: Nurse anesthetists specialize in administering anesthesia and helping patients to manage pain before, during and after surgeries and other procedures that require patients to be unconscious. They work directly with physicians to safely and effectively administer these powerful medicines. 
  • Nurse administrator: These advanced nurses lead healthcare organizations and act in a managerial capacity. They coordinate various healthcare services and manage other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses and cleaning staff. 

How nurses can avoid burnout

Nursing is a demanding profession, which is why burnout is a common problem among nurses. Long working hours, exposure to upsetting situations, the pressure to perform, and more, can also contribute to this. As burnout is characterized by a state of work-related exhaustion caused by stress, it’s essential for nurses to be aware of it and how to prevent it. That’s why, when enrolling on an advanced nursing program such as the ones offered by Rockhurst University, you can understand how to avoid nursing burnout and the steps you can take to overcome this. 

Set realistic expectations

One of the most effective ways that nurses can avoid unnecessary stress and, ultimately, burnout is to set realistic expectations for themselves. It’s crucial to understand that you can’t save all your patients, and while this is an upsetting thought, it’s one that’s necessary to come to terms with. Set realistic goals and expectations to avoid disappointment, frustration and eventual burnout. 

Look after your physical health

Looking after your physical health positively impacts your mental and emotional health, which is great for reducing burnout. Try to make exercise part of your daily routine, eat healthily and establish good sleeping habits. These activities can help you control stress levels, enhance your mood and maintain good overall health. 

Focus on stress management

If you’re feeling stressed or you’ve had a particularly difficult shift, applying some stress management techniques can help you restore calmness. This includes activities such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga or deep breathing.  

Practice self-care

Prioritizing self-care is important for maintaining your wellbeing, which helps you deliver a consistently good service to patients. Set aside some time to do activities that you enjoy and that bring you peace, such as reading a book, going for a walk or taking a bubble bath. These can minimize your stress levels and help you recharge.

Develop a support system

Having a shoulder to cry on or someone to lend an ear is invaluable for nurses, as it helps them destress and unburden themselves of troubling thoughts and feelings. You can likely create a good network of supportive figures at work with your colleagues, but you can also rely on friends and family. There are also many nursing support groups you can join online, where you can connect with people in similar positions. 

Find joy in your work

When you’re stressed or tired, it’s important to remember your initial motivations for becoming a nurse, as this can help you find joy in your work. It’s easy to lose sight of these reasons when the job gets difficult, so keeping them in the forefront of your mind can give you a source of inspiration and joy. Remember that your work directly improves the lives of others.


It’s important for nurses to find a balance between career advancement and personal wellbeing, as focusing too much on one can negatively impact the other. You can achieve this by establishing a positive routine that supports your working life, while giving you plenty of time to relax and recharge. 

It’s crucial to avoid burnout, as it can slow you down on your career path and make you less happy and effective in your work. Overall, nurses can find balance by having a career goal, steadily working toward it by expanding their skills and knowledge, and constantly nourishing their mental, emotional and physical health. 

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