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Opportunity Awareness

The number of opportunities in nursing has never been so great. The nurse consultant has opened up new clinical pathways for those who want to maintain patient contact, and nurses are at the forefront of many initiatives. Nurses work in prisons and industry, on ships, in independent hospitals, care homes and, increasingly, in partnership with social services. The option to be self-employed is also open — working as an expert witness, trainer, independent consultant or branching into related fields such as counselling or complementary therapies.

Through researching and networking skills you can find out how current opportunities in nursing can match your career needs and aspirations.
In order to become aware of available opportunities, you need to understand:

  • current career pathways in nursing
  • how networking and researching skills can help you find out about current opportunities in nursing
  • how to appraise current opportunities in nursing in relation to your career needs.

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Career Paths in Nursing

Traditionally, career paths in nursing focused on four different areas. Career progression involved choosing either research, administration, education or clinical specialization. More recently the emphasis has shifted to gaining competencies in all these areas. The nurse consultant role, for example, encompasses the following core functions:

  • expert practice;
  • professional leadership and consultancy;
  • education; and
  • practice/service development, research and evaluation.

Regulatory bodies are developing continuing competence programs to enable nurses to track their competence and to continue to provide high-quality care.
Find more information in the Continuing Competence section of the Canadian Nurses Portal.
Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Current Issues

Some other key issues impacting on nursing careers include the following:

An aging population

  • has created huge demand for nurses with expertise in needs of older people
  • opportunities to work in intermediate care, community care
  • Canadian nurses also aging – with an estimated 13-28% due to retire by 2006 (at ages 65 or 55, respectively)

Changing disease patterns

  • nurses need skills in supporting patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma
  • specialist roles in disease management growing

Technological advances

  • hospital stays shorter, with more after-care required
  • nurses gaining advanced clinical skills
  • need more nurses to have information technology skills

Changes in primary care

  • decision-making at local level
  • primary care nurses developing commissioning, strategic planning and influencing skills
  • nurses taking on executive roles in primary care
  • more nurse practitioner roles

Nurse-led services

  • more opportunities for independent nursing services such as walk-in, specialty clinics
  • nurse-run clinics

Breakdown of traditional professional boundaries

  • more flexibility: nurses, doctors, therapists, social services staff share responsibilities where appropriate
  • development of joint education programs for health-care professionals
  • shared roles between nursing professionals serving different areas or populations

Key roles for nurses

  • opportunities to advance clinical expertise: diagnose, order procedures, prescribe medicines, refer where appropriate

Focus on leadership

  • greater access to leadership courses

Recruitment initiatives

  • nursing shortages lead to adoption of employee-friendly initiatives such as phased-in retirement, support for continuing education, etc.

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Activity: Appraising Opportunities

Could your career benefit from some of the changes and new opportunities available? Take time to consider how these opportunities may affect you. And record your answers to the following questions.

  • What is good about the changes?
  • What is not so good about the changes?
  • What opportunities are there for you personally?
  • What do you need to do to enhance your exposure to the new opportunities?