Nurse Podcast

Episode 3. What is Professional Ascension? (The Framework)

What You Will Learn In This Episode:

The blueprint for developing your nursing career is right here. Founded on the principles of Professional Ascension, the Ambitious Nurse Podcast is about helping nurses grow professionally. Professional Ascension provides career coaching and mentoring for nurses with experience. The framework of Professional Ascension is Discover your Nursing Career Path; Explore your Nursing Career Intrest; Set Nursing Career Goals, and Take Action in Your Nursing Career. Throughout this show, we discuss the framework’s pillars and examples of how they are applied to nursing career paths.

Connect with Bonnie Meadows MSN, APRN, ACCNS-AG

Website: The Ambitious Nurse Podcast Our Services: Instagram: @professionalascension Want to blaze a trail in your career? Download my complimentary Nursing Growth Starter Guide at Complementary career advancement guide.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Bonnie Meadows MSN, APRN, ACCNS-AG

 Want to blaze a trail in your career? Download my FREE Nursing Growth Starter Guide at


57% of nurses in a hospital setting leave after two years.

The satisfaction with bedside nursing peaks between four and six months and again at the end of the second year. And that’s if you’ve gotten relief in between that six months in that second year, or gotten to that point of, “Okay, I can do this.” I believe nursing is one of the best careers in the world. But most nurses don’t take advantage of all that nursing offers. People often give up on it because they immediately see what’s before them. They see long shifts, short staff, unruly patients. They feel like their leadership doesn’t care.

But if you’re willing, I want to teach you how to make your nursing career significantly more valuable and fulfilling without the help of your leadership, possibly. In this episode, you will learn about the framework of professional ascension and how it can help you gain clarity about your career path.

Welcome to The Ambitious Nurse Podcast.

Where I provide tips, tools and resources for the experienced nurse to put in your career bag to help you be a better person, a better leader, a better professional, and most of all, a better nurse. I’m your host, Bonnie Meadows, a Career Coach, and a Clinical Nurse Specialist with over 18 years of experience in healthcare and nursing. It’s my passion to help experienced nurses develop their careers to impact healthcare and their communities.

Professional Ascension is a career coaching program that provides experienced nurses with coaching and mentoring to help them develop their careers. The Ambitious Nurse Podcast sits under the business of Professional Ascension. So I want to walk out the framework of Professional Ascension because it’s essentially the framework of The Ambitious Nurse Podcast. But it is the foundation for this podcast.

There’s no clearly defined path to accelerate your career as a nurse.

And I’m sure you can agree with me on that. There are so many directions that you can take as a nurse. But a lot of times, there are so many that it almost works against us because we don’t know which route to choose. And we don’t want to choose the wrong route. The other piece to it is there are nurses who are not necessarily willing to mentor other nurses. Those nurses are hard to find because of lateral violence, jockeying for positions or just a lack of good mentors. That’s where we sit in nursing. It’s not something to sit here and just bicker about, but it is more so a recognition of we as a profession have to do better to nurture those who are coming behind us and to nurture one another.

Nursing is my passion. And I hope to guide nurses in finding a career path that they can be proud of, that impacts the profession, And then that helps others. So I’ve outlined a framework that I believe all nurses should take in order to really develop and find their career path. Again, although it is a framework, it is not cookie cutter.

So you can use it to help refresh your career at any point in time.

I do this for the experienced nurse because we pour a lot into our new nurses and rightfully so. We want them to have a good transition into the profession so that they can stay. But once you’re there, there’s really not a lot of resources to really guide you as to, “Okay, now that you’re here, let’s take a step back, see what you’ve learned along the way, And then see how you can progress forward to make the best for your career and to optimize your calling your passion, your purpose.”

So the first piece of the framework is discover. And it’s more so a discovery, a clarity of let’s figure out what we like. Let’s build up our confidence. And then let’s develop our professional and personal brand. So when you’re thinking about what’s next in your career, whether you’re trying to get a good promotion or trying to make a new start in a new area, you have to discover what makes you unique as a nurse. So in this particular pillar of the framework, you have to get some self awareness. You have to build your confidence. And then you have to of course set forth your personal and professional branding.

Self awareness is about figuring out who you are as a nurse.

It is literally what are yours strengths? What are your weaknesses? Or, shall we say opportunities these days. But we dig deeper than that. Because we find out as we grow in our careers, that things like beliefs and values and the core values of a company and how people walk those out are very important to us. Because we come into the profession thinking we’ll be able to do all that we can for our patients. So it just takes some time to really figure out what those things are.

Again, an experienced nurse would have a little bit more of an idea of what it is. I would say, probably around your second year, you figured out, “Okay, I like this”, or “I don’t like this” or, “I can do this. Let me see how I can move forward.” So that may be the time to just start evaluating. Like, what are your values? What are your beliefs? What are your career goals? What does your life look like? Are you getting married?

Are you traveling by this time in my career, I was doing a lot of traveling.

I was living life as a single woman. And I was just like, if I get married, I get married. If I don’t, I don’t. So I was just really wanting to get established. I am the ambitious nurse. So I was looking for what is the next by the time I had gotten to about two and a half years. So I did some self reflection, some self assessment, but I don’t believe that I included values and beliefs in that.

And so I like to include that. Because even as we get to our mid career nurses who are at about five, to seven, to 10 years in their career, maybe even 15, you’re starting to look at what values do I have and does the company that I work with align with that. You may or may not look at that in your early 20’s. But you’re definitely looking at that in your mid career.

Gaining self awareness allows you to work in a fulfilling career,

which will help increase your self confidence, your productivity and your happiness. But again, the first step is becoming self aware about the skills, the talents and the gifts you possess. It’s literally about writing down and evaluating “What do I have in my toolbox? What do I want to gain in my toolbox?” From there, you build that confidence. Because once you’ve laid out what you can do, you can stop telling yourself what you can’t do. And you can start encouraging yourself about what you can build on.

A lot of times there is a barrier to moving forward with lack of self confidence and impostor syndrome. And impostor syndrome I will address in a few episodes later on. But it’s really, you have the tools to use but you don’t necessarily feel like you really have the tools to use. You don’t feel like you’ve earned it. You know. You feel like a failure.

That’s really what impostor syndrome is all about.

Like, you have the tools, but you still feel like a fake because you don’t feel like you really have it all together. So again, laying out what you are, who you are, what you believe, your strengths and your weaknesses, your talents and your gifts helped to decrease your imposter syndrome. Now, everybody deals with imposter syndrome. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. You could be the CEO of a company and you can still deal with impostor syndrome.

And it’s almost like it rears its ugly head every level higher that you go. Which is why you sometimes do have to fake it till you make it because you’re really not faking it. You have what it takes. So building that confidence also reminds us and helps us to identify the barriers and helps us to focus on a mindset shift that will help us to gain that confidence. And once you’ve gained that confidence and reduced that impostor syndrome feeling, then you can build your professional and personal brand.

I remember when I initially settled on what my professional brand was,

and I just kind of fell into it. It was in the midst of me finding another job in order to build my dream job. So I’d gotten to the point of almost where I wanted to be in my career where the level that I felt like okay, this is it from here. I can build on and go in this direction. And it didn’t work out for several reasons. Lateral violence.

But I think it also happened for a reason. I am all about what you meant for evil is going to turn around for good for me. God’s going to turn around for good for me. So I know when I’m going through a tough time, it is more than likely just the bottom of where I have to hit before I’m on my come up. And that is exactly what happened. It forced me to evaluate what is truly my calling. What is truly my passion.

And at that point in time was when I went through this exercise because when someone’s under handedly tearing you down, you have to be adamant and remember where you came from. What you did previously. And in your mind, you must tell yourself, this is not who I am. What they’re portraying me to be and what I feel like they’re portraying me to be (because they may not be portraying that thing) but what I feel like they may be portraying me to be I am not that. Because I don’t have that track record.

So from there, it forced me to just take a step back

and say, “Okay, let’s think about what things are true at this point.” I had to go through the exercise of self awareness and identifying “What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What do I value at this point in my life? What are my beliefs? And I came out to four words. Or four phrases or four things that set my personal and professional brand.

And that is, I love nursing. I love leadership. I love quality improvement, policies, all of those things. And I love mentoring nurses. And that was when I said, “Whatever I do, going forward has to include those four things”. because I wasn’t getting ready to leave this dream job. Because I actually could have stayed. I’d switch managers. Things that shifted around a little bit.

So I actually at that point,

had a great manager who was very supportive. Not that the other one wasn’t supportive, but it was just different. The support was different. And I felt like I was a little bit more supported. So I could have stayed where I was, and just work my way on up to where I needed to get back to. But I said, “No, it’s time for me to move on.” And I moved on with the thought process that everything I do has to include that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to circumvent it once or twice. And it’s always brought me back to these four things. Your brand should give you a sense of who you are as an individual and your career goals. And then from there, you only consider jobs in those categories, they don’t have to be just four. It could be however many you want it to be. But those are the things that are going to feel your bucket.

So if you end up in a position where your bucket is not being fulfilled,

it’s more than likely that one of those things are out of sync, and you’re going to be looking for the next thing.

It’s either that or you just got bad leadership. I struggle with bad leadership. So, I struggle with it. I’m sure most people do too. But, you know, here we are. So that’s the first pillar of the Professional Ascension framework, which is discover, and you focus on developing your self awareness. You focus on building your confidence. And you focus on building your personal and professional brand.

And the second pillar of the Professional Ascension framework,

we step into the exploration phase. Exploration of your nursing career, what you can do. Exploration of the options in your nursing career. By the time you get to your first or second year, really your second year of nursing at the bedside, you kind of have an idea of what you like, what you don’t like. You get settled as you’ve been in the same place for those full two years.

You get settled into the rhythm of how to take care of those patients. And either at that point in time, you’re looking to expand where you are. I would assume that any nurse that is listening to The Ambitious Nurse Podcast is one who is not always settled in where they are. Unless there are things going on outside of work that has them settled. But more than likely, as the ambitious nurse, you’re not always settled in where you are.

Sometimes life events cause you to have to be settled,

but you’re not content. And I wouldn’t necessarily say content, because sometimes you have to get to a place of contentment. But by the time you get to your second year, you kind of know your flow of what’s going on with your patient population. If you’ve been there for a while. And you now are looking to either expand where you are or move into something a little bit different.

This is where of discovery matches job research. By this point, you’re either thinking, “I want to move to another bedside job.” So if you’re working in a step down there, you might want to go to the ICU or sometimes you might want to go to the office. You might be in the office. You might want to go to Acute Care. Or you might be in the office. You want to move up. Whatever the case may be.

But specifically for bedside nurses,

it’s usually, “Okay, well, what’s my next?” Sometimes it’s an expansion of skill set. Sometimes you want to expand your skill set and at this point in time, it’s good to take a look back at what are your values, what are your beliefs? Your skills? Your talents? We talked about all of that in the discovery phase. And so now you put those into play in the exploration phase.

Now it’s time to see well, what’s out there that matches what I like to do? What I’ve discovered that are my beliefs, my values, my strengths, my opportunities. What are some things that I would like to build on? Grow? You also have to start to think about what is going on in your life at the same time. What is your outside environment? And what do you have the capacity to do at this time.

So you might be thinking about going back to graduate school,

or you might be thinking, “I want to just kind of take a moment to have kids. So I don’t necessarily have time to go back to grad school”. And some of my overly ambitious nurses, or I wouldn’t necessarily say overly ambitious, but you’re just that nurse. And you might be wanting to go back to school and have a baby at the same time.

Listen, I’m not knocking it if you want to go for it. Because there are some nurses who are very successful at doing that. And not necessarily they got it all together. They just learned how to balance. And they do have a support system that helps you with that balance.

A lot of times at this point, you’re asking these questions.

“Do I still enjoy caring for patients at the bedside, or am I wanting to move beyond the bedside?” Now, this doesn’t always happen at two years. Sometimes this happens at five years. Sometimes this happens at seven years, or eight years, or 10 years. I’ve seen posts where people are like, “I’ve been at the bedside for 15 years and now I want to do something different.”

That’s why this podcast is for the experienced nurse. Because I understand your plight of, “I feel like I’ve done my time at the bedside”, for those who do, “and now I want to expand beyond that.” Or it’s, “I’m in it. I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned what I like, what I don’t like. It’s time to explore.” So that’s really what exploration is about.

One thing that usually pops in here is imposter syndrome.

And impostor syndrome, I addressed earlier. But again, to remind you, it is something where you feel like you don’t have what it takes. And I am here to remind you that as a nurse, even if you’ve spent the majority of your time at the bedside, yes, there are some soft skills that we do. There are some hard skills that we do need.

But you have elements such as time management, knowing how to talk to patients, collaboration, communication. Those are skills that cannot be overlooked and that you can take those to other areas. You can take those to other areas, if you’d like.

So, at this point, you want to start just looking.

Perusing. Use job websites. Use your hospital’s career portal. You can even have some conversations with people in your professional organizations if you’re a part of one. Or use that professional organization to just see what options are out there. A lot of times, I may be on the job search board just to look at what are the options out there?

What are the opportunities? What could I actually work towards? So that’s exploration. And from there, once you’ve got a sense of either I’m going back to school, or I just want to move up to the ICU or want to go to radiology, or I want to just expand my skill set in another area or expand my skill set where I am, then now it’s time to set your goals.

Are you working towards certification?

Are you working towards applying for grad school? Are you working towards moving up to the ICU? And then once you get to the ICU, that’s like being in grad school if you’re doing it right. I know when I went from the cardiac surgery step down unit to the cardiovascular ICU, I felt like this is a whole semester, if not a whole year long of graduate school because there’s so much to learn.

So much to learn. Give yourself that time to learn and go ahead and set those goals. Set the goals based on what’s going on in your career currently, and what you may want to do outside of your career. Maybe you want to just kind of cruise for a little bit. Do traveling.

Maybe you want to have some kids.

Maybe something’s going on within your family and you want to be there a little bit more to support them. So you’ve got to be able to juggle those things when you are trying to set your career goals.

So setting your career goals is the third pillar. Let’s go through the list. You know what you like, what you want, what you already have. You have more knowledge about the careers and jobs that are available out there. And you know what professional skills you need to hone. At that point is time to set some goals. Setting Goals allows you to be proactive in your professional development.

It helps you to build your confidence.

And you feel a sense of pride and joy once you found a path that aligns with your talents and interests. With that your plan should include long term goals. So long term meaning over the next five to 10 years, and short term goals. Meaning the next three months to the next year. And again, assess what’s happening in your personal life.

Would you be getting married soon? Thought about starting a family? What season is it easier to implement specific activities or actions even if you do have kids? Don’t count yourself out even if you do have kids. Because there are small increments steps that you can take that will set you up for when you do have the capacity to make those larger steps. Or you may be closer to retirement.

Your kids may be out of the house.

You now have more free time. Don’t hold yourself back from wanting to advance in your career or just do something different or figure out setting your goals on what is my next step once I retire. These days, not many people just retire and do nothing. I want to encourage you to set goals even if you’re working towards retirement.

The last pillar is to take action. We can make plans all day. I’ve done it. Make these beautiful plans, set out a calendar and then I don’t do it because I haven’t taken action. Within Professional Ascension there are several elements that are required to take action for your nursing career to grow. Those factors include mentoring, or career coaching, accountability, professional organization membership, and incorporating your goals within your action.

You want to establish quarterly, monthly and weekly goals because that allows you to take action immediately.

Many times we’ll say, “Oh, within the new year we’ll do such and such and such”. That’s so far away. And if you’re anyone like me, you’re a procrastinator. So you’re gonna wait until the end of the year when now you’re into the holidays, you’re doing such and such, you need deadlines.

And you need an overall goal for the year. But then you need to set them quarterly. Then work on them monthly. Then just break them down into just bite size so that you can work towards achieving more in a longer amount of time.

A good book that helps us with this is The 12 Week Year book.

I’ve been reading that book and it is excellent in really giving direction on how to set goals and take action in whatever it is that you’ve set out to do. The 12 Week Year is a book by Brian P. Morgan and Michael Lennington. I encourage you to check it out. I will try to have a link to it in the show notes.

They provide templates and help you to think through what you should do and how you set up your goals. If you’d like to dig deeper into that, let me know by sending an email at [email protected].

So let’s take a look at the other significant elements you need to take action on.

I mentioned mentoring and career coaching. It’s very hard to advance your career in a bubble on your own. And I would venture to say that the higher you go up, the more knowing someone in that area works to your advantage. In my last four jobs, I was able to at least get an interview because I either knew someone on the team or I knew the manager themselves.

Now, I don’t circumvent the process. I still apply. I still go through interviews. To me, it’s all about getting in the door. And then once I’ve gotten in the door, then it’s time for me to show up for myself. Because at that point, I’m only in competition with myself regardless of how many other people are interviewing for the position.

Let’s take a look at some of the other elements.

Mentoring and career coaching. It’s very hard to advance in your nursing career alone. You need someone to bounce some ideas off of to help you strategize on what your next career move should be or whether you should stay where you are. Many times we only see what we see and we don’t see outside of that. And sometimes it takes someone being there as a mentor.

Many times, I’m not gonna say sometimes, many times it takes someone being there as a mentor for them to be a sounding board and for them to provide you whatever advice on something that may be going on in the workplace. Complex issues you may be having with your boss or even working through feelings of, “This is not it. I need something different.”

I remember when I was at the bedside.

It might have been 2011 2010, because I left in 2011 as a bedside nurse. And I was talking to one of my friends who was sort of a mentor at the time. We still talk on a regular basis. And I do plan on having her here on the podcast later on. But I was telling her about how I was feeling stuck. I really want to do something different.

And she encouraged me to speak with a young lady who worked in HR. And it was someone I believe that she had gone to and had some conversations or somehow another she had some conversations. I only had one conversation with her. And she asked me, she said, “So what do you want to do?” And even at that point in time, I knew I wanted to be in leadership. Leadership has always been one of my stronger pillars. But what I thought leadership looked like back then is not what I think leadership looks like right now for my life.

And she said, “Well, are you reading any books on leadership?

And I was like, “No.” And she said, “Well, you might want to start because it’s good for you to have an idea on what leadership is and how you can be a better leader.” Great advice. Had I, I know that if I was just kind of walking on my own and doing my own thing? No. It is always important to have some type of mentor or career coach in your pocket to really help you flesh out your next steps.

Accountability is a community. So once you’ve identified your goals, or sometimes even before you identified your goals. Sometimes when you’re in that discover phase, and you are on the track of,”I’m just trying to figure it out”, you need someone who will help to hold you accountable. Find someone with who you feel comfortable sharing your goals that is not a mentor.

It can be a close colleague of yours who was on the same journey to make the most out of their career.

They will help remind you of what you want to do when you get off track. Life happens. And sometimes we make decisions that lead us off the paths. Having an accountability partner can help you stay on track and help you troubleshoot any peer to peer problems that you may experience in your life.

So you need both. You need a mentor, and you need accountability partners. I have two accountability partners who kind of serve as a little bit of everything. They serve as mentors. They serve as accountability partners. And sometimes they even serve as sponsors because we all work in different areas. But it’s almost like we sponsor each other.

So if I’m somewhere and someone needs something, I’ll say, “Oh, well have you talked to such and such?”

or, “Oh, well I recommend this person”. And if they are somewhere, they do the same thing. Or if they get an email about something, they’ll say, “You should consider this” or, “You should consider this.” Or if either one of us are having work issues, we reach out. Those are our accountability partners.

But we all have coaches. We all have coaches some way form or another. We all have mentors who are ahead of us in our careers. You need both. It is a community of what you need in order to really make the most out of your nursing career.

And then I’m gonna wrap this up with professional organization membership.

I have found that being a part of a professional organization and actively involved has been an excellent source of confidence building and career advancement for me. It provides opportunity for growth through learning and networking. And not networking, like the used car salespeople. Genuine networking.

Genuine networking to me is you are genuinely having a conversation with someone about something and this thing comes up that you are interested in. You ask them if they know about it, and they say yes. You more than likely will find that people who are at conventions and conferences and meetings for professional organizations, they want other nurses to succeed. It’s very rare that you find lateral violence and bullying.

Unless people are just really jockeying for positions within the organization, that’s just rare to find.

When you’re there just trying to uplift the profession and just be the best nurse that you can be, then you will find people who want to help you to be that person. And that’s what I found in being part of a very active professional organization.

So, discover, explore, setting goals, taking action are the four pillars of Professional Ascension. And they are all the four pillars of The Ambitious Nurse Podcast. They are all essential for effective career growth and development.

Other areas that we will touch on are leadership and plain old professionalism in nursing.

I will say those are kind of hanging out to the side pillars, but that’s what will be included in our topics as we talk about different things on the show.

Thanks for joining us this week on The Ambitious Nurse Podcast. To review the show notes and any links mentioned in today’s episode, please go to The Ambitious Nurse Podcast ( If you enjoyed this conversation, follow or subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode.

Also, please consider leaving a rating, review and/or comment about what you want to hear.

This helps more nurses just like you find this podcast. Thank you for joining me, Bonnie Meadows, on The Ambitious Nurse Podcast. I look forward to chatting with you the next time. And remember, you don’t have to grow your career alone. As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. Thank you for letting me sharpen you as you take this knowledge to sharpen the next.

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