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Career Advancement in Nursing: Navigating Specialisations and Certification

  • Date: Dec 11, 2023
  • Author: Alastair Tulloch

Starting on your journey of career advancement in nursing can be both exciting and a little daunting! Nursing offers lots of opportunities and specialisations, each with their own challenges and rewards and understanding these options and charting a clear path towards your career goals can sometimes be overwhelming. Which is why Vetro are here to guide you through the process. In this comprehensive guide to nursing career advancement, we’ll talk you through making informed choices when it comes to courses and help you create a personalised Professional Development Plan (PDP) that let’s you reach your goals. 
It's natural to feel apprehensive when stepping into the unknown, but remember, the most important thing you can do for your career is to be proactive. Don't be afraid to come out of your comfort zone and explore uncharted territories. You might even face rejection or hear the word ‘no’. That’s OK!  Rejections are not setbacks; they are opportunities to learn and grow.  

Are you ready? 

Choosing The Right Nursing Specialisms and Certifications For You 

First let’s look at the steps you can take when deciding on a new specialism or certification. There are many different types of nursing roles and specialisations available to you, from General Nursing, mental health nursing or healthcare support work each with their own responsibilities and requirements. Before you choose which path to take you should: 

  • Consider your interests and passions

Think about what you want from your career in both the long and short term. What are your goals? Where do you want to be in one, two or even five years? Your answers to these questions don’t need to be set in stone but having an idea can help you narrow down your choices. 

  • Take time to research possibilities 

Once you have some idea where you want your career to go you can start to explore what you need to do to make that happen. There are lots of resources available. You might like to start with the Royal College of Nursing forums and career pathway resources. You can also look at existing skills frameworks to get an idea of any further training you might need. 

  • Test the waters

There are several ways you can get a taste of what a specialisation or role is really like. You can opt for a formal clinical rotation or secondment or ask to shadow a more experienced nurse. You can even consider a volunteer or agency role to gain extra experience in a specific environment.

  • Consult your colleagues 

Nurses and colleagues already working in your chosen specialisation or studying for a certification will be able to give you a different perspective on what it’s really like so it can be useful to ask for others frank opinions. This is also a great way to start networking in your chosen field and maybe even find a professional mentor! You can also make the most of your appraisals and 121’s by asking for advice there.  

  • Think about your lifestyle 

Every role has its own unique demands so it’s important to know how that will fit into your life outside of work. Do you have any major life events coming up that will affect the kind of role you want? Within this it’s important to know what nursing roles and specialisations are in demand in your area, especially if you aren’t looking to commute long distances or travel for work

  • Keep an open mind 

Always remember that it’s OK to change your mind during this process. You may find that after a few weeks shadowing your dream role no longer looks quite so enticing. If you keep an open mind about nursing specialisations and certifications, you’ll be able to find the right ones for you

If you’re looking for more support when it comes to finding the perfect nursing specialism for you, Vetro can help! All our nursing agency workers can book jobs in a wide variety of services and healthcare settings. This allows you to experience working with different teams, NHS Trusts, and other employers without the commitment of a permanent role. Making it easier to decide which specialism and role is right for you. Find out more. 

Creating a Nursing Career Development Plan 

Now you know what specialisations you’d like to pursue you can stat to build a Professional Development Plan (PDP) that will help you work towards them: 

  • Look at where you are now 

Use your current performance appraisal, peer review or other information to identify any strengths, weaknesses and how satisfied you are with your career as it is. 

  • Define your goals

You can do this with a mind map or even a vision board to set out what you want you career to look like in one, two- or five-years’ time. Try colour coding your goals: immediate, short, and long term.  

  • Identify your learning gaps

This is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be. Ask yourself what skills and experience you need to do to bridge these gaps? 

  • Make a step-by-step plan

It might feel overwhelming to look at all your goals at once. Instead choose one goal and break down everything you need to do into a step-by-step plan. Try to make sure your steps have clear actions and deadlines! It might look something like this: 

  • Goal

By next year I’d like to be a GP Practice Nurse 

  • Steps

Contact local GP practices to enquire about shadowing a practice nurse. Spend half an hour researching volunteering opportunities and make enquiries. Attend relevant training course in infection control management. Organise meeting with line manager to discuss opportunities for developing leadership skills. Visit open recruitment day at local NHS trust to see what's available  

  • Take your first step

Once you have your plan you can start putting it into action.

  • Review your plan regularly

Every few months take some time to look over your plan and make any changes. Are your goals still the same? Are there new steps you can take? Have you found a new course, job or certification that can help you on your way? 

How Vetro Can Support Your Career Advancement 

At Vetro Recruitment we’re as committed to your career as you are. Which is why we provide exceptional professional development courses, support, and training opportunities.  

All our candidates receive a package of FREE training when they register with Vetro, which includes access to over 20 CPD accredited training courses and sector specific training. For healthcare and nursing that means courses that cover everything from patient care and medication control to conflict resolution and communication. Courses available include: 

  • Fire Safety 

  • COSHH 

  • Caldicott 

  • Infection control 


  • Complaints 

  • Conflict resolution 

  • Lone Working 

  • Moving and Handling 

  • First Aid 

  • Equality and Diversity 

  • Food Safety and Hygiene 

  • Medication Awareness & Dosage Calculator - Nurse 

  • Medication Awareness & Record-Keeping – HCA 

  • Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults( SOVA) - Level 3 

  • Falls Awareness 

  • Your Personal Development 

  • Duty of Care 

  • Working in a Person-Centred Way 

  • Communication 

  • Privacy and Dignity 

  • Blood Component Transfusion 

  • Consent Awareness 

  • Preventing Radicalisation 

  • Diabetes Awareness 

  • Epilepsy Awareness 

  • Counter Fraud in the NHS 

  • Subsidised 3-day TMVA/PMVA Training (BILD Accredited) 

If you'd like more information on how Vetro could help you find meaningful agency work in nursing, get in touch or explore our hundreds of live vacancies across the UK. 

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