Networking for Nurses: How to Make Career Connections in Healthcare

From finding employment to advancing your career, learn why networking is so important in nursing and take away tips and expert advice for making your strategy successful.

Last Updated: 11/11/2020
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MEET THE EXPERT

Nancy Brook

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Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, is a nurse practitioner and career mentor at Stanford Healthcare. She has more than twenty years of experience working with nurses and health care professionals who want to create a more meaningful career and a healthier lifestyle. www.nursepractitionerbook.com

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in school or a seasoned nurse, networking can boost your career. From meeting a head nurse at a fundraiser to connecting with a healthcare administrator on LinkedIn, networking helps people discover who you are and why you’re special. It also helps you connect with fellow students and professionals who can empathize with your daily struggles, celebrate your successes, and keep you abreast of the latest nursing trends. No matter how you spin it, if you’re a nurse (or becoming a nurse) you need to be networking. To learn the many benefits of networking and to gather expert advice and key tips, continue reading.

Reasons to Network in Nursing: Why You Should Engage

You should network for many reasons, from landing your first job out of college to meeting others in your field you can go to with questions. Below are just a few of the major reasons why networking can be so beneficial to your career as a nurse.

Finding Employment

You got into nursing school, nailed your nursing school admissions interview, aced the NCLEX, and now you need to find your first job in the field. What better way to get your foot in the door than a professional networking event? Whether you’re just starting out or looking to move into a new job at the same level, building your network can aid you in making professional connections at other healthcare facilities and can potentially help you hear about jobs that aren’t posted on career websites.

If you know someone who works at a hospital or clinic where you plan to apply, they can let the hiring manager know to be on the lookout for your application. Once your application reaches the consideration stage, your contact can put in a good word for you.

Career Advancement

After working at the same nursing level for a few years, you may decide it’s time to move up the career ladder. Whether that means obtaining an additional degree or simply using your existing experience to take on more leadership and/or responsibility, networking plays a crucial role in career advancement for nurses.

When it comes time to look for a new role, reach out to your professional network and let them know your intentions. Attending a few networking events to meet more contacts and learn about their workplaces’ potential roles is also a smart idea when you want to advance your career.

Keeping Up with Trends

Despite participating in required continuing education to maintain your license, this doesn’t ensure you receive exposure to the vast array of technological advances and new best practices in the field. Nursing is a constantly changing and evolving discipline, making it essential you stay aware of what’s new.

Maintaining a robust professional network can make staying attuned with new trends easier. When you’re in regular communication with other nurses working in different facilities, you naturally hear about new tools or processes being implemented. Without a network, you may be slow to learn about these things and get left behind. This can lead to trouble moving ahead in the field.

Professional Support

It’s no secret that working as a nurse offers tremendous rewards, but it’s also a mentally and physically demanding career. While your friends can empathize when you tell them about a hard day, only others who work in the field can truly understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

Finding support from other nurses can help get you through difficult times and provide a space to share triumphs. California’s Nurse Support Group and the Minnesota Nurses Peer Support Group provide excellent examples of similar programs you can look for in your city and/or state.

Different Ways to Make Professional Connections in Nursing

Whether you prefer in-person social networking events or want to connect online, plenty of options exist to get to know others in nursing – both locally and nationally. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in a nurse practitioner for decades or you’re just deciding to become a registered nurse, getting involved is invaluable. Here are just some of the networking opportunities you can participate in as a nurse or nursing student.

Professional Networks

Professional organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners provide outlets for meeting other nurses and building professional relationships with them. Many offer online forums or social media pages for connecting. It’s also not uncommon to find continuing education webinars or annual in-person conferences where you can meet others from far and wide. Plenty of professional associations exist, so research both local and national options to find one that meets your needs.

Networking Events

Networking events for nurses can be organized by various organizations, including professional associations, healthcare facilities, staffing agencies, and colleges or universities. Whether you’re a student or professional, taking part in one can provide sizable benefits. Some may allow you to meet with recruiting officers while others may feature a happy-hour style format and potentially a guest speaker. During the COVID-19 era, many of these organizers have moved their events online, making them all the more convenient.

Social Media Networking

If heading out to an event after a long shift isn’t quite your style, plenty of networking can be done through social media from the comfort of your home. With many events canceled or postponed for the time being, becoming active on social media may be your best bet for getting connected with other professionals. While you don’t need to maintain a presence on every platform necessarily, it’s essential to figure out which of the major social media platforms best serves your needs and goals. Here’s what you should know about networking on each platform.

Should I Be Networking? Who Should Get Involved and When

Simply put, there’s no wrong time to network. Getting involved with professional associations and attending events with other professionals in your area is always beneficial, whether you’re looking for a job or simply want to meet other nurses. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prospective student considering a nursing program or an advanced practice nursing professional, networking nearly always has positive outcomes.

Networking for prospective nursing students

Even before starting an in-person or online nursing program, networking can help you. Despite doing ample research on top nursing degrees, hearing first-hand accounts from nurses who attended actual schools can often provide the best insight. If you start building up contacts in the industry early enough, these individuals may also be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. A reference from a working nurse can hold significant weight for admissions panels.

Networking for current nursing students

Once you start school, networking continues to be an essential facet of getting closer to starting your career. By getting to know nurses who have already graduated, they can help you find internships and provide job shadowing opportunities while you work on your degree. As you begin applying for jobs after graduating, these same contacts can help you get your foot in the door at a new job.

Networking for current nurses

After getting out of school and landing a job, networking can still benefit you. Whether you lose your job due to budget cuts or find yourself looking for a new position after a time, being able to lean on your professional connections can make the job hunt a lot easier. As discussed earlier, being part of a group of fellow nurses also provides the outlet for talking about the good and bad with people who understand where you’re coming from.

Networking for advanced practice nurses

Even as a nursing veteran, networking still offers opportunities for you to both contribute and gain benefits. If you’ve ever thought about providing mentorship to newcomers in the field, keeping a robust network can help you identify students or new nurses looking for support. It can also help you stay abreast of new medical trends and technologies, cementing your place in the field and keeping you at the top of your game.

Making Networking Work for You: 5 Tips for Success

Want to begin networking but don’t know quite where to start? You’re not alone. Putting yourself out there can feel intimidating, but the tips outlined below provide a roadmap for stepping into the process while feeling confident and prepared.

Tip #1: Create and carry business cards

Imagine encountering the head nurse of your dream hospital at a networking event. You speak with them, and they ask for your business card to connect you with the hiring manager. What if you don’t have a card? Sure, you could write down your name and email address, but this lacks a business card’s professionalism and preparedness. Get a set printed that you can bring with you to networking events and hand out to professionals with whom you want to connect.

Tip #2: Maintain your social media presence

In today’s world of nearly everyone having a social media presence, it’s not unheard of for hiring managers to Google your name. Aside from making sure you portray yourself positively and professionally, it’s also important that you keep your social media current and show your dedication to the nursing discipline.

Tip #3: Practice and perfect your elevator pitch

Sometimes you only have about 30 seconds to explain why someone should hire you for a job. Getting your elevator pitch down to the proper length, ensuring you include relevant information, and offering a unique selling proposition in a clear and concise package can go a long way in helping get a hiring manager’s attention. Ask yourself questions about what you want to highlight, what’s unique about you, and why someone should hire you. Start from there and whittle it down until your pitch is the right length.

Tip #4: Radiate confidence

When we feel confident, others can sense it. Radiating confidence is especially important at networking events, as you want to present your best self when making contacts. Some of the ways you can reinforce confidence in yourself include repeating a positive affirmation, wearing an outfit that makes you feel in control, keeping your shoulders straight, and thinking about the end goal of getting your dream job.

Tip #5: Always Look for Opportunities

While many nurses tend to focus on formal networking opportunities such as events, socials, or online groups, it’s important to remember that networking can come in many forms. By always looking for opportunities, you open yourself up to making essential connections where you least expect. If you see someone wearing scrubs at your gym, talk to them. If your neighbor works in a hospital, get to know them. You never know where these relationships can take you.

Expert Insight on Networking in Nursing

Nancy-Brook
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Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, is a nurse practitioner and career mentor at Stanford Healthcare. She has more than twenty years of experience working with nurses and health care professionals who want to create a more meaningful career and a healthier lifestyle. www.nursepractitionerbook.com

1. How can busy nurses network after long shifts?

Networking happens in many formal and informal ways for nurses (not unlike other professionals). This could mean talking with a leader, manager, or visiting nurse or physician on your team or unit. It could mean networking with other nurses and leaders at a noon training session, professional conference, or continuing education class. It may include speaking with a rep (drug rep, component/instrumentation/medical device rep, etc). Networking is what we do by communicating every day.

2. What advice would you give nurses trying to build career connections?

  • Reach out to mentors or nurses who inspire you. Connect on social media and LinkedIn. Made connections at professional conferences, become acquainted with their work or research.
  • Continue to expand your skill set and knowledge base. Participate in committees, focus groups, professional organizations to start.

3. What’s one of the biggest mistakes nurses may make in this area?

They don’t network, don’t take the time or see the value, and as a result they become complacent in their areas.

4. Even if a nurse has a job they like, why should nurses keep networking?

The future is uncertain. COVID-19 has proven this. We may not know when our employment, no matter how stable, may end or change. It is critical to have up to date skills, education, and connections within our profession and beyond. Additionally, it’s exciting to expand our networks and meet new friends, colleagues, and mentors.

Networking Resources

  • American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing AAACN provides a list of local networking groups throughout the country you can join.
  • Networking for Nurses You can search on Meetup for nearly 50 different nursing groups scattered around the U.S. and Europe.
  • The Nurse Health Project This Facebook group exists to provide physical and emotional support for nurses going through difficult times.
  • Nursing Network You can join this group to take advantage of networking events, resources, and colleague support.
  • The Power of Networking Nursing Management provides this article from a recent issue on how networking supports nurses throughout their careers.
  • Professional Networking for Nursing The American Nurses Association provides this helpful guide on how to jumpstart – or reignite – your nursing career via networking.
  • RN Network This LinkedIn group provides a membership role of nearly 130,000 registered nurses and encourages discussion and support.
  • r/nursing This active Reddit group provides a community for nurses of all levels looking for opportunities to connect with others in their discipline.
  • Why Networking is Critical to Your Nursing Career The University of Louisiana at Lafayette highlights why it’s worth your time to engage in networking.