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How does a critical care/psychiatric nurse with her MSN move up in Veterans Affairs — an area with slim pickings?

Friday January 3, 2014
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Dear Donna,

How does a critical care/psychiatric nurse with her MSN move up in the Veterans Affairs — an area with slim pickings? It seems the only nurses who move up are the ones who know someone.

I am just a hard-working, 9-to-5 nurse with above-average annual reviews. I've been at VA for five years. What should I do to move forward?

Wants to Move Up

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Move Up,

If you mean working in a supervisory or management role when you say move up, read “Gearing up for management” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Management). As the article advises, start rubbing elbows with those already doing what you want to do or who are in a position to hire you by attending local chapter meetings of the Association of Nurse Executives (www.aorn.org), American College of Healthcare Executives (www.ache.org) and the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (www.vanurse.org). Making professional contacts and connections is a great way to find mentors and role models, learn about opportunities and develop relationships with decision makers, including those who hire RNs.

In addition to attending association meetings, join and get active in at least one of them. This will help to boost your visibility and allow more people to get to know you and you them. By doing project or committee work for an association, including serving as an officer, you get to showcase your talents and skills and even further develop those skills.

Finding a mentor is another good option. While this is something many nurses are not accustomed to doing, it is a powerful tool in the process of personal professional development. Read “In search of the right mentor” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Right-mentor).

You've got great credentials and experience. Now you have to take the next steps to bring your career to the next level. Follow the advice above including the information in the above-referenced articles and move toward your goals.

Best wishes,


“Dear Donna,” Nurse.com’s career management expert, tackles readers’ dilemmas and offers expert advice.SHIRTTAIL: Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www. Nurse.com/Events.