Networking has long been established as a dependable way to rise through the professional ranks and earn more money. In business, it’s that soft aspect of the job that so often seems to translate into leadership opportunities. In healthcare, however, networking isn’t discussed as a concept as often.

That’s a mistake. There are professional advantages to having a strong network as a nurse. There are also social and emotional ones that are specific to the job. In this article, we describe the career reasons why you should consider developing a strong professional network.

We also examine how this might improve workplace retention.

The Importance of a Professional Network in General

Networking is a phrase that tends to be associated with the business world. And of course, healthcare is a business— a big one. But nurses aren’t involved in that aspect of operations. Do they really need to dive head-first into the buddy-buddy political system of the wider professional world?

Well, yes. For several reasons that are specific to nursing, but also for some of the general benefits that any working person can expect to get from networking. These include:

  • Insights into new employment opportunities: Wage stagnation often happens because the employed person stops thinking about ways to increase their income. They do their job. Passively accept raises when they come their way, and that’s pretty much it. But when you lock into the wider professional world around you, you’ll quickly find that there are many opportunities. For example, maybe a hospital across the state is offering higher salaries and a big sign-on bonus. Or maybe there is a lucrative administrative position opening up at your current hospital, and you are being considered for it. Connections make these opportunities happen.

  • Preferential promotions: Workplace relationships also make you more likely to receive a promotion. You can do great work until the cows come home (whatever that means) but if the higher-ups don’t have much awareness of you, you’ll pretty much stagnate.

Professional networks help to ensure that your name stays in circulation when it comes time to hand out promotions.

Of course, none of that matters if you don’t do good work. The “networking myth,” seems to indicate that promotions and raises are given only to those who can buddy up with a bigwig. And there probably is a little of that. However, most businesses, healthcare or otherwise, want to hire the best people.

Having a great professional network puts your name on a shorter list when opportunities come up. From there, it is up to you to earn the better gig with hard work and distinguished performance.

Networks Make Life Easier      

Nurses know the struggle of working three to four twelve-hour shifts every week. Hospitals are open every hour of the week which means that you will wind up working holidays and weekends. You may also wind up working through important family functions.

It’s harder than ever to find shift replacements thanks to the ongoing nursing crisis. However, having good workplace connections may make it easier to find help when you need it. There are never any guarantees, of course, but a strong network will improve your odds of getting the occasional support when you need it.

That Support Can Be Emotional as Well

Nursing is hard. It’s hard in a way that only fellow nurses can really understand. You see people at their lowest and most challenging moments. Sometimes, your patients will experience bad outcomes. It’s not at all uncommon to watch a person die and then be at your home dinner table a couple of hours later, trying to make conversation with your family.

That’s a unique challenge that can really only be understood by someone who has gone through it themselves.

Being able to tap into a support network is an enormous asset on the job. Having someone listen to your hardships may not provide you with any professional advancement advantages, but it can very easily help you hang onto the job.

More than half of all new nurses leave within the first two years. This happens, of course, for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is burnout. The job is hard, and it never really gets easier.

If you are serious about having a long-term career in nursing, you need to find yourself a remedy for stress-induced burnout.

Having friends on the job is an excellent step in what should be a multi-faceted self-care strategy. A listening ear will not fix all of your work-related problems. However, it can help you to overcome moments of stress when the job feels most difficult.

How to Develop a Professional Network

Networking usually isn’t a formal thing. In fact, most people do it by accident simply by having conversations and forming relationships with their coworkers. Deliberate networking is, of course, possible. You can enter workplace situations with the goal of making relationships.

Some hospitals even provide mentorship or internship programs in which new hires can sign up for regular consultations to sit down and chat with a more experienced staff member. These opportunities can provide nurses with a great way to not only cement their professional connections but also just get support during the earliest, most challenging time in their careers.

Conclusion

The first few months on the job are crucial in nursing. This is the time period when people decide if the job is right for them. Many conclude that it is not. If you are serious about having a long-term career in nursing, it’s important to give yourself as many advantages as possible right from the beginning.

It’s not about using people to advance your goals. It’s about developing a robust support system that can help you develop as a professional.