A Guide to Networking for Nurses

Written by Sasha Blakeley

Networking in Nursing

In the world of professional development, there is little that gets more attention than networking. Networking is essential for many people across all fields to advance their careers, make connections and prioritize perpetual learning, and this is especially true for nurses.

Nurse networking can be crucial for helping nurses to find the kind of working environment that suits them best. However, some nurses neglect to prioritize networking as they pursue their careers; nursing is hugely demanding and leaves little time for additional professional development. But those who let networking fall by the wayside may regret it. Fortunately, there are ways to engage in networking without adding too much to an already busy schedule.

What Is Networking?

Networking is the practice of forming connections with others in a professional field to advance life and career goals. It can include developing professional relationships with coworkers, strengthening support systems, keeping up with the latest medical news, or establishing skillset and character in the eyes of an employer or work-related contact. Networking is not specific to nursing; people from all professions can benefit from forming these connections with their coworkers and peers.

Although many people are aware that networking is beneficial, it can sometimes take effort to get started or to understand what actual, tangible benefits networking is likely to confer on an individual. Compared with other careers, the specific benefits to nurses may not be immediately apparent. While some might overlook networking in nursing as a needless and time-consuming pursuit, it is one of the most valuable ways to manage one's career and ultimately have a positive experience in nursing. This is equally true for those just starting their nursing careers and those who have worked as nurses for many years. Communicating with others in the medical field always remains an important priority.

In the past, people primarily did their networking face to face and through word of mouth, or sometimes through meet-ups and conferences. In today's increasingly digital world, there are new networking avenues to explore, and the range of options benefits many nurses with busy schedules and specific networking needs. Nurses can network by engaging with coworkers, classmates, club members, professional nursing organizations, or social media groups, among many other options.

Why Is Networking Important?

Networking is important for nurses for many reasons. On a personal level, networking is all about branching out and speaking with others working in the same career field. In the high-stress environment familiar to many nurses, these professional connections can make work much easier to manage, and many people also find lasting friendships through networking. Additionally, strong networkers are in touch with the changes happening in their field as new research is published, and they are also more likely to be aware of potential career advancement opportunities.

All of these benefits boil down to a more dynamic relationship with employment, which is an excellent way to ensure that one's career will not end up standing still. By leaving networking aside, people may find themselves stagnating in their careers rather than reaching their full potential.

Like all aspects of building a career, networking is a skill learned over time and may only come naturally to some. Although it may sound intimidating, putting time and effort into understanding the process and making networking more effective is a good investment for any nurse.

The Benefits of Networking

The importance of networking in nursing goes beyond the general career advancement assistance that networking provides to those in other fields. When networking goes well, it can have meaningful, emotional benefits that offer daily support for nurses.

Nurses are best able to do their jobs when working in an environment that prioritizes clear, open communication and information sharing with relevant parties. Luckily, networking is a natural extension of that kind of communication; it cannot truly be separated from the day-to-day professional discussions that nurses already have, even if they are not prioritizing their networking skills. Since nursing is a professional field that requires a great deal of face-to-face contact, these workplace interactions are a perfect way to harness the emotional and occupational benefits of networking.

Finding Nursing Employment

One of the significant ways that networking can help nurses is by alerting them to employment opportunities or resources they may not otherwise have been aware of. Speaking to other industry professionals and building trust with them is an excellent way to hear about new job opportunities that are opening up, possibly before they are posted to other job-hunting forums.

In some cases, networking contacts can also help one get hired by vouching for the skills and traits they have already seen in previous conversations and interactions. New nurses looking for employment can benefit more than most from networking in this way. Start networking while attending nursing school to get a sense of the potential job opportunities out there; it can make the transition into the working world less challenging. Networking in nursing school can mean speaking to teachers and fellow students and making connections during hospital or clinic work.

It is not only new nurses who can use networking to find employment in the nursing field. Many nurses report experiencing burnout because of the stresses of their jobs, and one way to work around burnout is by switching to a new place of employment or specializing in a particular area of nursing. Transitioning to a new environment can give nurses a fresh perspective and the ability to make meaningful life changes. Strong networking contacts might provide encouragement and guidance during the adjustment period, making it less daunting to pursue a new career path.

Speaking to other nurses can be a great way to get unbiased information about the day-to-day experience of different kinds of work. It can also be a helpful way to learn about new opportunities that might not be common knowledge for other job hunters. For those interested in specializing, it is always advisable to understand the reality of the position by talking to people already practicing one's desired nursing specialization.

Career Advancement Opportunities

The jobs that nurses get at the beginning of their careers tend to pay less and require more demanding shifts and longer hours than the jobs of established nurses, as is the case in many professions. For those interested in advancing their careers, networking is often the fastest and most effective way to secure those opportunities and move on to a new career phase. Those who prioritize networking develop and maintain positive relationships with coworkers and employers are more likely to be considered for promotions and are more likely to be able to create the careers they genuinely want to have.

Networking is an information-gathering practice, and there are never downsides to getting more valuable information. As previously mentioned, networking is a skill only some individuals are immediately good at, but nurses can develop an aptitude for it with enough practice and patience. It is always important to approach potential career advancement opportunities respectfully and to balance networking with a genuine interest in the other party.

Thinking of becoming a Nurse? Check out our NCLEX resources

Lifelong Learning

Those who network are likely to advance their careers, but they will also be able to advance their learning, which is crucial in a field like healthcare. Networking requires nurses to maintain communication with others in their field, which can help prevent individuals from becoming insular or overly set in their ways as their careers progress.

Speaking to others, particularly those who work in other medical facilities or other specializations, can help nurses learn more about their field, stay up to date on current trends and research, and pick up new ideas and practices that can help in a healthcare setting. Knowledgeable nurses may be better equipped to resolve work-related problems as they arise.

Everyone benefits from sharing information, but it is rarely more crucial than in the medical field, where access to relevant research can mean the difference between life and death. Medicine is constantly changing, and all nurses must be well-informed to provide patients with the highest-quality care, minimize risks in the workplace, and more. Networking can facilitate that ongoing learning, ultimately serving everyone involved in the healthcare system.

Support Networks

Networking is usually discussed in terms of its professional advantages, but it can have personal perks as well, especially for those who spend as many hours at work as nurses do. Many nurses have professional experiences that few other careers entail, including long, exhausting shifts, exposure to contagious illnesses, and coping with the grief of patients and their families. Those experiences can take a toll on one's emotional well-being.

Developing a social and emotional support network can be invaluable for positive mental health, a crucial part of self-care for nurses. Speaking to other nurses can provide a much-needed opportunity to express solidarity with each other's experiences and talk to someone who understands specific elements of the job. A professional support network is also helpful in connecting nurses with external resources. Nurses can recommend each other therapists who specialize in the kind of challenges that healthcare workers are likely to face or might be able to suggest other solutions if problems arise.

A Unique Approach to Problem-Solving

Networking can also provide other kinds of support. A professional network gives nurses a group of peers they can reach out to if they have work-related questions or concerns. For those who are dissatisfied with their current careers and want to change their work environments, networking can help find options for unionized nursing work, information about specialization, and other opportunities. Some nurses also find professional mentorship through their networking efforts, often in the form of older nurses who have spent more time in the medical field.

The thing about networking is that it is different for everyone, and people can only know what benefits they will experience once they try. For some people, nursing can feel like a lonely career where they must solve complex problems themselves. While there is undoubtedly a great deal of initiative required in day-to-day tasks for nurses, a professional network can help nurses find novel solutions to the issues they encounter at work.

Getting Started: Where to Network

There are various ways to go about networking for nurses. Some methods have existed for decades and remain legitimate today. Others are much newer, and their role in networking is still evolving. The simplest way to network is to start talking to other nurses and healthcare professionals. For those who are still in nursing school, that means speaking with fellow students, teachers, hospital or clinic staff, members of social media groups, and more. For anyone who is already employed as a nurse, it means networking with coworkers, friends in healthcare, doctors, other hospital or clinic staff, and so on.

These conversations can often lead nurses to expand their list of contacts, thus growing their professional networks and ideally leading to all the benefits described above. However, in addition to regular workplace conversations, there are also other strategies that people can use to broaden their social sphere. Nurses should apply several or all of these strategies, not just one.

Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that allows people to connect with one another regardless of distance or background. For nurses, social media can be a great way to learn about career opportunities, but it is especially powerful in keeping up with healthcare trends and research. Reaching out to other nurses nationally or globally about how they approach various aspects of patient care is a unique, valuable asset to our modern world. Nurses can ask each other how they solve specific problems, what is working and what is not, how different clinics and hospitals manage their resources, and additional critical information.

Social media sites have varying benefits depending on the platform. The websites that individuals prefer for everyday social media use may be different for professional networking. Individuals should explore social media platforms to see which ones have the best quality of discourse, the best networking opportunities, and the kinds of networking they are looking for.

It is always vital for nurses to ensure that they maintain professionalism when engaging with social media. That means guarding one's own privacy and, of course, patient privacy. It is generally advisable to separate work profiles from personal profiles and to avoid posting identifying information on any public platform.

Networking Events

Because the importance of networking is so widely recognized, there are many events set up expressly to facilitate it. Networking events are sometimes invitation-only, but they are more commonly open to anyone in the appropriate field since they emphasize the importance of interpersonal communication.

These events can take many forms. They might be a multi-day conference, a moderated online discussion space, or even a single-day meet-up. Professional networks set up some of them, while others are organized by specific hospitals or coalitions of healthcare providers within a particular city or state.

Networking events can range from official, highly-structured events to informal meetings. To find the best networking events in one's local area, it is usually best to speak with coworkers, research events online, or organize them personally if no such local events exist. Many networking events are held in person, but many others are either hosted in a remote or hybrid format.

At networking events, nurses can expect to meet individuals from similar walks of life. They can also expect to see panels and discussions about important issues facing the healthcare community. Many will feature current research, provide guidance for best practices that nurses can apply to their daily working lives, and present new career opportunities.

Professional Networks

The most valuable way of networking as a nurse is to join a professional association designed by and for nurses. These organizations exist across the United States and worldwide and can help nurses connect with others in their local areas and specific fields. The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the most famous of these networks. The ANA connects nurses, advocates for their rights, organizes networking events, and provides other professional benefits for its members. Other national and international organizations do similar work, including:

  • The National League for Nursing (NLN)
  • The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)
  • The American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS)
  • The National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA)
  • The Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD)
  • The International Council of Nurses (ICN)

These organizations have different membership criteria and do slightly different work. It is worth researching these and other national organizations to see which would be the most beneficial for an individual's specific circumstances and needs.

In addition to national organizations, there are many state-level professional networks for nurses. Both national and statewide networks have many benefits and some drawbacks. National organizations may be less specialized and specific to members' needs, and conferences may be inaccessible to people who live across the country from the chosen venues. State-level organizations may not be able to provide as many professional benefits but may be more locally accessible and more applicable to individual nurses' careers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does networking mean in healthcare?

    There are many ways to go about networking in the healthcare field. Talking to coworkers, social media, networking events, and professional networks are just a few of the options available.

  • Why is networking important for the novice nurse?

    For those just starting their nursing careers, networking can help with the process of finding employment. It can also help nurses learn from their peers and stay up to date on research.

  • Why is networking important for nurses?

    Networking is important for nurses because it can help with career advancement and lifelong learning. It can also lead to lasting professional connections and friendships.

Expert Answers to Common Questions about the importance of networking in nursing

  • What are some ways aspiring nurses can find support and community among their peers and other nurses?
  • What is one piece of advice you wish you had when you were working to become a nurse?
  • What is the most rewarding thing about being a nurse?
  • What tips can you share to help students prep for and pass their nursing exams?

You can read their biographies and answers below:

  • Expert contributor image

    Carolyn J. Godfrey

    Professor

    Carolyn J. Godfrey, Ph.D., is a full professor at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. She has a Ph.D. in nursing education from Capella University, where she studied evidence-based teaching practices and curriculum matters. Dr. Godfrey received the St. Louis Community College Teacher of the Year Award, the Emerson's Excellence in Teaching Education Award, and the Missouri Community College Governor's Award in 2019. She has presented on various topics locally and regionally, such as teaching during a pandemic, Tuskegee, COVID, and Vaccines, and Evaluating students in the clinical setting. Her research interests include the flipped classroom, faculty mentorship, and diversity in nursing education. When she isn't researching best practices to strengthen the nursing educator role for new faculty, she's spending time with her husband and 2-year-old grandson.

    • What are some ways aspiring nurses can find support and community among their peers and other nurses?

      I have noticed that those aspiring to become nurses have found support groups on social media. It's also great if aspiring nurses could shadow other nurses at health care facilities to learn about the field. I also believe that the example set by nurse managers on how nurses should treat one another is vital. I still hear new nurses saying, "Why do nurses still eat their young?" So, there is still work to be done.

    • What is one piece of advice you wish you had when you were working to become a nurse?

      Trust your instincts and know that the profession you have chosen will require a lot of you, so know how to set boundaries.

    • What is the most rewarding thing about being a nurse?

      The most rewarding thing about being a nurse is seeing a smile on the patient's face and knowing that you made a difference.

    • What tips can you share to help students prep for and pass their nursing exams?

      Research the best nursing prep courses, find out how many students have been successful based on the particular test prep. Remember to revisit the fundamendal textbook for principles, skills, and concepts that may have been forgotten. When doing NCLEX questions, study the rationale instead of memorizing the answers. I would also suggest that students learn by analyzing case studies, and using the Next Generation NCLEX questions to prepare.