Clinical Ladder Success for Nurses

Does your hospital have a clinical ladder? Should you get involved? Hospitals usually have them so they can reward their staff for excellence in nursing. Starting and keeping up your clinical ladder means increasing your knowledge, professionalism, teamwork, and getting financially rewarded for it. Nurses can advance their career from RN Category 1 up to Category 4. They can do this by demonstrating clinical expertise and completing continuing education courses, advancing their professional certifications, and conducting research. RN program participants are reviewed and approved by their peers.

All you need to do to get started is to get the information packet that explains your hospital’s program. Then look at those requirements and see what is an obtainable goal that you feel you can realistically achieve.

The clinical ladder is different in every institution. Some hospitals will not let you drop down to a lower category if you do not complete the higher category that you signed-up for. For example, if you sign-up to complete Category 2, and do not finish it within the time allocated, the hospital might not allow you to drop you down to Category 1. The nursing managers, or nursing education department, will typically be the ones to help you with setting-up your program and guiding you through all the rules.

Reasons a Hospital Has a Clinical Ladder:

  1. To promote excellence in practice to assure quality patient care;
  2. To recognize nurses who show leadership within their unit;
  3. Maintain expert nurses at the bedside;
  4. Encourage ongoing personal and professional development;
  5. Facilitate career advancement;
  6. Support recognition and retention of the nursing staff;
  7. To foster self-growth in leadership;
  8. To promote exceptional customer service and team collaboration;
  9. To provide a clear delineation of nursing competence levels;
  10. Promote participation in volunteer community and health nursing service;
  11. Many institutions need to prepare for Magnet designation.

Popular Clinical Ladder Choices:

  1. Certification in your nursing field;
  2. A higher college degree such as BSN, or MSN;
  3. CEU’s or contact hours that can be obtained at a live conference;
  4. On-line or web-cast learning programs offer convenient way to get contact hours;
  5. ACLS, PALS, NRP certifications may be part of the clinical ladder options;
  6. College credits (healthcare related) are a great way to get clinical ladder credits;
  7. Volunteer at a community health fair;
  8. Precept or mentor a new nurse;
  9. Be the charge nurse;
  10. Be active in hospital committees (this usually has a minimum of hours required);
  11. Offer a journal club, or semi-formal in-service to your peers on a patient-care topic.
  12. Be a champion (wound care, pain, magnet, pathway to excellence, P.I., etc.)
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