How To Move Up The Clinical Nurse Ladder

Clinical nurse ladder program is common in the healthcare industry, and employers incorporate the clinical ladder program in their marketing retention initiatives. As a nurse, people often ask me how was I able to leave bedside nursing so early in my career. The nursing evolution truly enables nurses to explore different career paths.

I often laugh and feel confused about the question. However, the answer is simple because hard work always pays off. As a new graduate nurse many years ago, I was very curious and looked forward to learning about trends and new evidence in nursing.

In addition, I asked my unit manager to assign me to a nursing committee, so I could network with my peers. This is management 101! You have to manage your network in other to expand your career, your business and so forth.

how to climb the nursing ladder

Networking To Move Up The Nurse Ladder

Soon after my request, my manager informed me that the unit practice council had a vacant position that I should consider joining the team. Thus, I did not hesitate and immediately contacted the chair and voiced my interest in joining the council.

Furthermore, I received an invite to attend the next meeting and officially became a member. I was apprehensive at first because I did not think I had significant clinical knowledge to make recommendations to the team. Well! I fit right in!

I voiced my opinions, and the other members quickly made me realized that new graduate nurses are valuable stakeholders. Moreover, they recently completed their degrees and possess current knowledge about nursing trends and highlights.

I met nurses with more than twenty years of experience with different clinical backgrounds and different cultural origins. However, I felt very comfortable working with my team because every member had a voice.

I quickly began to review patients’ records for compliance, audit nursing documentation and review recent Patient Safety events or hot topics from the unit. This collateral enabled me to challenge myself and to become a prudent nurse.

I became fully aware of the significance of nursing documentation and on-time charting. I was able to summarize audit findings and submit them to the group with recommendations for improvement.

Hospital Clinical Nurse Ladder Program

Can you tell that I was a clinical nurse and an unofficial compliance nurse at the same time? My supervisor acknowledged my participation in the nurse practice council committee during morning huddle and staff meetings. Unfortunately, I left that job and accepted a position at a local hospital with a different vision and mission.

Because I was an experienced nurse, I asked the manager about unit-based activities and committees so I could join one. That hospital offered a paid clinical nurse ladder program to nurses with good standing, so I immediately requested information about the paid clinical ladder and later joined the Unit Practice Council (UPC).

The hospital paid an additional $3.000 a year for each ladder level up to level five. Can you imagine how much additional money a level five can earn? As a nurse, you control your destiny and career. Therefore, I took advantage of the additional pay and submitted my binder per hospital requirement with clinical narrative, current degree, unit and hospital committee involvement, and other internal requirements.

It was not hard to organize the binder and to obtain a preceptor validation. The board members of the nurse clinical ladder program interviewed me, and I moved up the clinical nurse ladder before leaving the hospital for a management job.

The Importance Of Promoting Your Skills

I volunteered to assist my unit manager whenever she needed assistance. Thus, she started sending me to some of her leadership meetings. I even attended budget meetings and other important discussions that affected staff nurses. I realized that the unit manager was like a sandwich receiving pressure from executive leadership and staff.

What a challenging role? Why was I interested in management? I developed a network with many of my peers and some of the unit managers. Can you tell I was positioning myself for future vacancies in other nursing wards? Furthermore, I started building my professional reputation on and off the nursing ward.

If you want something, you have to work really hard. Besides, your goal will become a reality when you believe in yourself. Nurses, you should be consistent, and very resilient because you will hear a lot of noise from distractors. Also, I noticed that an advanced degree will enable me to move up the clinical nurse ladder sooner. The evolution of nursing validates the impact of higher nursing education on clinical nurse practice.

how to climb the nursing ladder

Professional Nursing Development

I enrolled in school and obtained my Baccalaureate degree in nursing – BSN followed by a Master’s degree in nursing – MSN. I accepted a clinical nurse manager position soon after my graduation, and I really needed it following a life-changing event.

For instance, I mentioned all of my accomplishments as a staff nurse while participating in different nursing committees. I knew where I wanted to be within five years of my career, and I accomplished that goal by working hard, staying focused and committed.

You have to keep your eyes on the prize when you need something and avoid noise – negative feedback as much as possible. Some people will try to boycott or sabotage your effort and dedication but stay calm and determined. Lastly, professional development can facilitate nurses to move up the clinical nurse ladder.


I obtained significant clinical knowledge throughout my career and successfully transitioned from staff nurse to nurse manager and most recently nurse consultant. I love the consultant role because it is a very complex position yet fascinating.

In my current role, I collaborate with nurses and professionals from other healthcare disciplines that I never worked with before. This role truly contributes to my personal and professional growth. Please do not limit yourself and follow your dream.

Nurses, you should conduct a self-evaluation to identify some of your weaknesses, strengths and knowledge gap. Once you make the decision to improve yourself and to accomplish your goal, you have to develop a plan with a deadline.

The clinical nurse ladder program promotes self-development. Thus, nurses should take advantage of the program. Next time you go to work, think about where you want to be in a few years and ask yourself how can you get there.