Many elders say that they stay sharp mentally by trying to learn one new thing every day. Cambridge Dictionary says lifelong learning is “the process of gaining knowledge and skills throughout your life, often to help you do your job properly.” Whether it is to enrich your career or keep your mind fit, learning is an important human activity. Practice is often the best teacher. Knowledge does not always come from formal education, but it broadens our understanding and can lead to fulfilling personal and professional growth.
It’s no secret that nursing continuously changes. Did you know that the public expects everything nurses do to be based on evidence, yet as of 2014, only half of day-to-day nursing practice is actually supported by research? Improving anything begins with someone seeking knowledge by asking questions.
Gathering knowledge to answer those questions underpins lifelong learning and is an extremely valuable nurse quality. Employers want nurses who have committed to lifelong learning. New information and understanding can improve the way nurses deliver healthcare, patient outcomes, and ultimately, the quality of healthcare systems.
Proving you are a lifelong learner is a simple but continuous process. Let’s look at some ways to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning and improving healthcare.
Become Certified in Your Specialty
Absorb Information: Read, Listen, Be Inspired
Read anything and read often. If an interviewer asked you about the last thing you read, would you have a good answer? For example, crush an oncology interview with an epic response about how you just finished Siddhartha Mukherjee’s, The Gene.
In the age of technology, absorbing information stretches far beyond printed books – e-books, inspiring video lectures, online nursing newsletters, and podcasts. Does your state board of nursing offer a monthly bulletin? Does your local library offer free audiobook services? How often do you read nursing journals? Have you ever googled “nursing TED talks” and taken 20 minutes to reignite your passion for nursing? What other ways can you absorb nursing knowledge regularly?
Nurses often seek information from colleagues. Think about it. How often have you turned to the nurse next to you for a quick answer and accepted the information as true? Lifelong learners, with their arsenal of knowledge, are an excellent resource to their peers.
Not only do lifelong learners ask questions, but they also seek answers from current, reputable, and quality resources. They utilize that colorful hierarchy of evidence that they learned in nursing school throughout their careers.
Beyond the required continuing education to maintain a nursing license, lifelong learners embrace opportunities to learn new information. They don’t scramble to complete education requirements for license renewal – they learn for the sake of learning, not to collect certificates.
Engage with a Nursing Organization
Professional nursing organizations are one of the top ways to prove your commitment to your specialty. Lifelong learners not only join these organizations but engage with the networks and resources offered. Many provide continuing education and nursing journal subscriptions with membership to fuel your lifelong learning fire.
Earn Nursing Certifications
Certification formally validates specialized knowledge, skills, and experience in a specialty of nursing. A form of continuing education, certification is another way to prove your commitment to lifelong learning. You probably already know that certified nurses are highly desirable to employers. The American Board of Nursing Specialties (2005) published a position statement on the value of specialty nursing certifications that is still very valuable today.
Write it Out
Journal, create vision boards, take notes, make lists. The ways to creatively process information are endless. Taking time to digest information allows you to evaluate gaps in your current knowledge, plan for how you want to apply your knowledge, and zero in on how you want to reach goals.
If you’ve ever worked on a successful unit-based project, chances are you didn’t think about publishing what you learned. Many nursing journals have programs designed to support novice writers who have big ideas to share. Publishing your knowledge throws your hat in the ring of experts on a particular topic.
Share What You Know
Did you know that it takes 17 years for research to make its way into practice? A major reason for the delay is the lack of sharing. Your knowledge is valuable. Employers know it, the people we care for know it, and the nurses surrounding us know it too.
I Am a Lifelong Learner
I am an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) and member of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). I have read every issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing since 2015 and published quality improvement projects in the same journal. I am a lifelong learner.
In a past interview at a hospital struggling with nurses not checking vital signs 60 minutes after the start of a blood transfusion, I had a copy of a research article explaining that this practice was not necessary. I finished reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene just before another interview and was hired the same day. Employers value lifelong learners because they bring a very important tool to work with them every day – the evidence that supports evidence-based practice. Commit to lifelong learning. What better way to engage with and prove a commitment to your profession? Now go learn something!
Cambridge Dictionary: Lifelong Learning
Chrisman, J., Jordan, R., Davis, C., Williams, W. (2014). Exploring evidence-based practice research. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy!, 12(4), 8-12. https://journals.lww.com/nursingmadeincrediblyeasy/fulltext/2014/07000/exploring_evidence_based_practice_research.3.aspx
East Carolina University Libraries. (2021, Jan 12) Evidence-based practice for nursing: Evaluating the evidence. https://libguides.ecu.edu/c.php?g=17486&p=97640
Morris, Z.S., Wooding, S., & Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12), 510-520. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3241518/
American Board of Nursing Specialties. (2005, March 5). A position statement on the value of specialty nursing certification. https://www.aaacn.org/sites/default/files/images/ABNS-cert-stat.pdf