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Advantages of Personal Development Plans in Nursing

“The only person you are destined to become, is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

That quote is certainly apt for those in the caring professions, which rely heavily on a personal approach and an equal measure of competence and emotional intelligence. 

This is also why personal development is so crucial in nursing, alongside continually updated professional skills. The best nurses combine technical ability and knowledge, with attributes such as calmness under pressure, good communication and empathy. Imagine if these personal traits were absent when dealing with patients who are uncomfortable, distressed or deeply concerned about a diagnosis.

Additionally, you also need to be a confident decision-maker and a skilled problem solver as well as resilient and adaptable in order to excel in modern nursing. 

This article digs deeper into how a personal development plan is central to professional advancement as a nurse. It includes insights on how your personal development makes you a more valued and effective professional while also increasing your job satisfaction and sense of self-worth. 

What Is a Personal Development Plan?

Essential nurse skills cover technical abilities and knowledge (hard skills) and the personal qualities needed for caring professionals (soft skills). 

Your personal development plan should be integrated with your continuous professional learning, with a focus on enhancing and growing your soft skills. 

These are sometimes known as ‘empowerment skills’ for good reason. They make you better at managing pressure, time, communication, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, for example.  

The starting point for creating your personal development plan as a nurse is often asking yourself questions. For example:

  • Where are you now in your personal and professional skill levels?
  • Where do you want to be? This should include short, medium and long-term goals.
  • What resources and support do you need to progress towards those goals?
  • What combination of in-person or online training would you benefit from most?
  • Are there work experience and mentor opportunities that could help you advance?
  • What can you do independently to further your personal development?

It’s important to add a timescale for achieving your personal development goals as well as ‘milestones’ to evaluate progress. This keeps you motivated and on the right track. However, like all good plans, you may need to make adjustments and updates, as your career and life may throw a few curve balls your way.

Getting Input From Others

When considering what an individual personal development plan looks like for you, it’s helpful to seek the views of others, especially colleagues and the people you report to. In fact, your employer may add your personal development needs into your formal training needs analysis. 

This may lead to difficult conversations and views that surprise or disappoint you. However, one of the most vital personal attributes you need if you want to transition into a leadership role is emotional intelligence. That includes a willingness to work on your own strengths and areas for improvement.

Setting Transparent and Achievable Goals

Your personal development goals as a nurse may cover a wide range of topics. For example, your focus could be on building your self-confidence, your ability to stay level-headed under pressure or your conflict resolution skills.  

The best personal development goals draw the best out of people rather than trying to change who they fundamentally are. Therefore, your personal development plan should be based on achievable and realistic objectives.

To illustrate this, you may decide to pursue presentation skills training to become more confident when collaborating or reporting during your working day. That doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a public speaking course designed to transform you into someone able to address hundreds of colleagues in a lecture hall.

Building Your Empowerment Skills

After setting your goals, you then need a framework for how to achieve them. 

Fortunately, you can find nursing training courses that cover technical accreditations and transferrable, empowerment skills as part of lifelong learning.

You may well find that these courses are also the ones that enable you to step more easily into management and leadership roles within the nursing profession.

For example, one of the most effective ways to develop leadership attributes in nursing is by looking into the online DNP degrees offered by Baylor University. These Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are designed to create visionary nurses focused on not only improving patient outcomes but also being a better employee and colleague and a positive force for change in nursing as a whole.  

Increased Confidence in Decision Making and Problem Solving

In nursing, quick decisions save lives. Being agile and quick in your responses can certainly make you a more valued colleague. 

One of the best ways to develop those skills is to find ways to work on your confidence. This can include taking steps to become a better communicator and critical thinker. You will be better able to ‘think on your feet’ without second guessing yourself or hesitating due to lack of self-confidence.

Working on your confidence can also help you diffuse heated situations more easily, resolve conflict and be more assertive and calmer in emotionally fraught situations. 

Protecting Your Mental Health

Another reason why personal development is important in nursing is because it helps to protect your mental health.

Learning the latest techniques and skills in nursing and becoming a better decision-maker, manager and leader builds your sense of self-worth and achievement. This is especially true when this is an employer-supported personal development plan, and they have recognized and rewarded your desire to learn.  

Working on your personal development will make you more resilient and resourceful, and that is inevitably going to help you manage stress better as a nursing professional.

How This Also Benefits Employers

Finally, there are also important reasons why employers should support personal development within nursing. 

Encouraging staff to work on both their hard and soft skills can contribute substantially to boosting job satisfaction, motivation and productivity. It can also enhance workplace safety standards.

This idea was summed up in an article published by global analytics and advice firm Gallup, titled “Development Is How Employees Improve.” The article explained that the biggest benefit of individual staff development plans was better engagement between employers and nursing teams. 

The report states, “The most highly engaged teams have 81% less absenteeism, 64% fewer safety incidents (and 58% fewer patient safety incidents, in healthcare settings), 41% fewer quality defects, 18% higher sales productivity, 23% greater profitability and 66% better wellbeing.”

This perfectly illustrates that the advantages of investing in personal development extend not just to the individual involved but also to their patients and the organization that employs them.

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