Continuous learning creates successful people and successful people are fascinating. What makes someone who started with nothing become a world famous celebrity, activist, philanthropist, etc. while someone else born into riches becomes a drug addict, criminal, or toxic, unhappy human? Is it luck, circumstance, or something else?
Many of my readers know that I got off to a rough start, not as a child but as an adult. I was raised by loving parents, grandparents, and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins but found myself pregnant at 19, quit college where I was enrolled in a pre-med program, and got married. Two kids later, no money, on welfare, and with a husband who wasn’t exactly supportive, I realized that I was not living the life I thought I was supposed to have. So I stepped up and took 100% responsibility for my life. I went back to school, became a nurse, got remarried and now own a successful company.
What enabled me to go from government cheese to having a successful nursing career is that I committed to continuous learning through reading accompanied with formal AND informal education. The thing is, neither of my parents were educated, nor did they read the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or any other business/success publications. I actually don’t remember my parents reading at all (well, maybe Reader’s Digest), but they did encourage every one of their children (there are 5 of us) to read and go to college. And we all did.
I’ve never stopped committing to continuous learning and neither do gifted nurses.
Gifted nurses invest in continuous personal and professional development. They engage in every opportunity to continuously learn – reading books and articles, attending in-services, becoming certified, getting an advanced degree, attending conferences, etc.
Here are 5 ways to infuse continuous learning into your busy life so that you may be gifted too.
Spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day reading something instructional or inspirational. Read to enhance your leadership and management skills. Learn about a specific disease process or new surgical intervention. Read beyond healthcare-related content. Share what you are reading with your co-workers and supervisors. Make reading a habit.
My reading success strategy is that I have a stack of books, journals, and online articles ready for me at all times. Every morning, I make a cup of coffee and as I drink my coffee, I read. I will go without food before I will go without reading. Reading is more nourishing.
2. JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION
Choose a nursing organization that most interests and challenges you. By joining, you will gain access to their journal and online resources, which are included in your membership. A few added bonuses are the dinner meetings, conferences, and networking events most organizations host. I’ve learned so many things from other nurses within these organizations – things I would have never learned had I not joined. Participate as much as you can. Enjoy meeting people from other organizations. Use this time to expand your network and your knowledge.
First, join an organization related to your specialty. For example, I was an educator and supported medsurg nurses, so I joined the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN). I’m now a professional speaker so I joined the National Speakers Association (NSA). However, sometimes you might want to join an organization unrelated to your specialty just to learn something different. For example, I joined the Oncology Nurses Society (ONS) a few years ago, but I’m not an oncology nurse. Why? Because I didn’t know a lot about cancer care and wanted to learn.
The point is – join!
3. GET CERTIFIED
I’ve been teaching certification preparation courses for about 8 years now. However, I’ll always find a nurse, who has been practicing for decades, who gets a bit testy when we start talking about the importance of certification. Some older nurses get really offended when you even suggest they get certified. “I’ve been a nurse for 40 years and don’t need no stinkin’ certification to prove I’m competent!” Actually, they’re right. Certification doesn’t PROVE competence, it VALIDATES competence; to your patients, your coworkers, and to yourself.
Here’s the deal – Certification in a specialty in nursing is significant. Did you know that studies show, patients who are cared for by nurses who are certified, achieve better outcomes? It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been a nurse, certification makes you better.
4. GET SOCIAL
Ask any group of nurses if they are on social media and most will say yes. Ask the same group if they are ACTIVE, meaning that they post, read and engage in conversation, and only some will say yes. Then, ask if they use social media as a professional nurse and hardly anyone will say yes. Although I believe it’s getting better, meaning, more nurses are finding the value in social networking via social platforms, we are still way behind other industries. Getting involved in social media can improve your knowledge, connect you to other amazing professionals, and expose you to remarkable innovations. For example, did you know that Baylor Scott & White just delivered the first baby using a transplanted uterus? Fascinating!! How did I know that? I saw the post on Facebook and then read more about it. I’ve been invited to give the keynote address twice now in Dubai UE. How? Because of the relationships I’ve grown on LinkedIn with a few amazing nurses from Dubai. They read the articles I posted and reached out asking me to speak for them.
My opinion – if you’re going to dip your toe in the water of professional social networking, start with LinkedIn. Why? Because LinkedIn is where the professionals go to learn and to network.
5. GO BACK TO SCHOOL
The mac daddy of them all, go back to school. Many nurses say they are too old to go back to school or that it will take soooo long to finish. When nurses are in school, often people ask, “When are you going to be done? When will you graduate?” That’s because everyone is looking at school as a destination – a finish line. Instead, look at it as a journey.
When I was in school (I started with an associates degree, and then got my BSN, MSN and now have my DNP), I looked at each semester/class individually. I would ask myself, “What can I learn in THIS class, THIS semester that will help me to grow professionally and personally?” Before I knew it, I was done.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to the world and to yourself is the gift of continuous learning. Just make learning a habit – every day, bite-sized nuggets of knowledge that accumulate over time until you don’t even recognize the person you were when you started.
One of my very favorite quotes of all time is from the late Jim Rohn who said this, “Formal education will make you a living. Self education will make you a fortune.”
How are YOU incorporating the gift of continuous learning into YOUR nursing practice? I’d love to learn from you!
Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.