Charting the Course: Career Mapping and Succession Planning for NPDs
HealthFebruary 09, 2018

Charting the course: Career mapping and succession planning for NPDs

Nurses in professional development can help staff nurses take charge of their careers and, at the same time, build an organization’s nursing leadership pipeline through an activity called “career mapping.”

“Career cartography,” explained an article in the Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, “is described as the science of designing, producing, and communicating an individualized and detailed map toward a deliberate career achievement and advancement. Career mapping begins with a destination statement and a career vision, identified career goals, and includes a dynamic, strategic career plan blueprint that is revisited and revised as goals are met.”

Much like the famous fictional sleuth Maisie Dobbs visualizes her thoughts on a case map to help her navigate and solve each investigation she takes on, a career map helps nurses organize, strategize, and eventually realize specific points on their career journey.

The map gets them where they want to go.

‘Bench-ready’ successors

Career mapping benefits employers, too.

A handful of nurses who participated in a career-mapping pilot project at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock said the process of communicating with nurse educators and leaders about their short- and long-term career goals and then mapping out their personalized career plan helped them feel valued, according to the paper.

The nurses also felt more directed in their professional development and engaged in the practice environment.

One clinical nurse who ticked off goals-turned-accomplishments on her career map went on to advance to a patient care management position within the hospital.

“Because the clinical nurse had utilized her career map to identify and achieve her goals and because the nurse director had mentored, encouraged, and supported the nurse in the achievement of her career goals, the nurse was able to assume the new patient manager position,” the paper explained.

“From the nurse director’s perspective, her team was ‘bench ready’ in succession planning.”

Meaningful professional excellence

Having engaged, directed, and empowered nurses charting their professional paths is smart strategy for succession planning.

“Purposefully developing nurses earlier in their careers for long-term leadership roles presents a more sustainable solution than merely fulfilling an immediate need to position replacement,” the authors pointed out.

At Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the organization-wide launch of career mapping that followed the successful pilot project was unexpectedly slow in gaining momentum, the paper reported. Use of the career map template across the hospital was sluggish and inconsistent. While nurse leaders and educators recognized the need to zero-in on exactly why, their support of the career-mapping progress remained strong.

After all, they saw what it accomplished in the pilot group.

“Career mapping can assist the individual nurse to establish goals for lifelong learning, serve the profession and the community, and achieve professional excellence in whatever way that is meaningful to that nurse,” they asserted. “Career mapping can assist organizations to keep talented staff and plan for succession in leadership roles.”

“Career mapping,” they concluded, “can be an important approach to assist organizations with professional excellence goal attainment.” 

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