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Empowering Nurses To Lead – 5 Proven Steps To Career Growth And Leadership Roles

Written by: Shamika Livingston, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Shamika Livingston

Nursing is a noble and fulfilling profession that offers a wide range of opportunities for career growth and development. Many bedside nurses aspire to take on leadership roles, where they can make a broader impact on patient care and nursing practice. Advancing from a bedside nurse to a leadership position requires dedication, continuous learning, and a commitment to personal and professional growth. In this article, we will outline five essential steps to help nurses transition from providing direct patient care to thriving in a leadership capacity.

a nurse giving a thumbs up

1. Define your career goals

The first step in advancing from a bedside nurse to a leadership role is to clarify your career goals. Take some time to reflect on your passions, strengths, and the areas of healthcare that truly inspire you. Do you see yourself leading a team, managing a unit, or driving quality improvement initiatives? Identifying your aspirations will provide a clear direction for your career trajectory. Moreover, seek opportunities to shadow or speak with nurse leaders within your organization or network. These interactions will offer insights into the responsibilities and challenges of leadership roles, helping you decide which path aligns best with your career goals.

2. Pursue advanced education and certifications for leadership roles

To increase your chances of transitioning into a leadership role, consider pursuing advanced education and certifications. If you aspire to enter the healthcare field promptly, seeking nursing school is an excellent option. Within 2-4 years of study, nursing schools provide a solid foundation of knowledge to prepare you for the NCLEX test, enabling you to become a registered nurse. In fact, many nursing schools even require applicants to take the HESI exam to assess their readiness for the NCLEX. In addition to school studies, you can enhance your preparation independently for the HESI exam by using online resources. Informative reading materials and study guides, including a free HESI A2 study guide covering all 8 modules, are readily available. Utilizing these resources can bolster your confidence and expertise, increasing your chances of success in the HESI exam. Once you become a registered nurse, a world of opportunities opens up before you. You can even start your career in healthcare and simultaneously continue your education to specialize further in your field and get leadership positions in the future.

Many leadership positions in nursing require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as a minimum qualification. Going beyond this and obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will open even more doors for career advancement. Additionally, obtaining certifications in specialized areas such as nurse leadership, healthcare management, or nursing administration demonstrates your commitment to professional development and competence in these roles. Many nursing associations and organizations offer certifications tailored to various leadership positions, so explore these options to enhance your qualifications.

3. Gain diverse clinical experience

To be an effective leader, it's essential to have a broad understanding of different clinical settings and patient populations. Seek opportunities to work in various departments, such as critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, or community health, as this exposure will expand your knowledge base and enhance your adaptability.

Being well-rounded as a nurse will also earn you the respect and trust of your future team members and colleagues. Embrace opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and interdisciplinary projects to build strong relationships with professionals across different areas of healthcare.

4. Develop leadership skills

Leadership positions require a unique set of skills beyond clinical expertise. Effective communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and conflict resolution are vital competencies for nurse leaders. You can develop these skills through workshops, seminars, or leadership training programs. Additionally, consider seeking mentorship from experienced nurse leaders who can offer guidance and support as you develop your leadership style.

Volunteering for leadership roles within your unit or nursing committees can also provide hands-on experience in managing and motivating teams. Embrace feedback and use it as a tool for growth, as becoming a successful leader is an ongoing process of self-improvement.

5. Network and seek opportunities

Networking plays a crucial role in career advancement. Connect with nurse leaders, healthcare administrators, and other professionals both within and outside your organization. Attend conferences, workshops, and industry events to expand your network and gain insights into the latest trends and best practices in nursing leadership.

Additionally, keep an eye out for internal job postings and promotions within your organization. Express your interest in leadership roles to your supervisors or human resources department, as they may have valuable advice and opportunities to share. Proactively seeking and applying for leadership positions will demonstrate your enthusiasm and dedication to advancing your career.


Advancing from a bedside nurse to a leadership role requires a combination of education, experience, skills, and networking. By setting clear career goals, investing in continuous education, gaining diverse clinical experiences, honing leadership skills, and actively seeking opportunities, you can pave the way for a successful transition into nursing leadership.

Remember that the journey may require patience and perseverance, but with determination and passion for nursing, you can achieve your goal of positively influencing patient care and the nursing profession as a whole.

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Shamika Livingston Brainz Magazine

Shamika Livingston, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Shamika Livingston is a devoted wife and mother of four, bringing over 15 years of experience as a skilled License Practical Nurse. Her business caters to empowering women in nursing, assisting them in becoming entrepreneurs or transitioning from bedside nursing to leadership or administrative roles in the healthcare industry. Certified in various nursing fields, including CDP, PCHA, and ALA, Shamika firmly believes in continuous learning to become an industry expert. Her dedication extends to serving the elderly population, as she currently owns a home care agency focused on the well-being of geriatric and disabled adults. With unwavering commitment, Shamika leaves a significant impact in healthcare,.


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