Nurses That Get Promoted vs. Nurses Who Don’t

One of the most common reasons why nurses feel burnt out is the lack of challenge in their job. If work starts to feel more like a routine, they begin to lose their passion and sense of purpose. These things can lead to their lack of quality care, resignation, and even change in career.

If you put your best foot forward to get that nursing promotion you had your heart set on but got passed over for someone else, this article is for you. While it’s normal to feel disappointment when you don’t get what you want, the way you bounce back from that minor setback could dictate your success in landing a future nursing promotion.


What things nurses should consider when expecting promotion?

You’re meeting expectations

Showing up, working hard, taking care of patients, and documenting well is the expectation. Your manager expects you to be a great nurse. To exceed expectations, you have to do more than that. Are you presenting innovative, feasible solutions to improve patient safety and care? Are you volunteering for committees and mentoring new nurses without being asked? Are you investing in your own personal and professional development? Nurses who consistently exceed expectations are more likely to be promoted than nurses who meet expectations and claim to exceed them.

You cost too much

You complain about your co-workers, your patients, your leader, or your organization and cite those parties when something doesn’t go as planned. Perhaps you call it venting because it sounds more acceptable than complaining, but venting costs organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, results in disengagement across the board, and rarely or never leads to innovative solutions or change. Nurses who get promoted use their time to better understand differing viewpoints, brainstorm solutions to interpersonal and process problems, and then do the hard work required to bring those solutions to life.

Nursing skills are vastly different from leadership skills

Nurses are tasked with managing all day every day: you manage the patient’s condition, manage staffing levels, and manage the workflow on your shift. Management skills are critical to excellence in nursing. But leaders who focus too much on management and not enough on leadership quickly become micromanagers, leading to reduced productivity, disengagement among their team members, and strained relationships with their peers.

So how can nurses demonstrate their leadership skills while still managing all of the vital tasks assigned to them? It requires a daily focus on empowering delegation; a focus on unit and organizational strategy; mentorship of other nurses; effective conflict resolution skills; a high level of personal accountability; and investment in one’s own learning and growth. Because that’s a whole lot, focus on your energy each moment. Each day. Commit to making a difference in one of these ways every single day and you’ll stand out in a crowd pretty quickly.

Your heart isn’t in the right place

When asked, “Why did you apply for this role?” many candidates respond, “Better hours,” or, “Better pay.”

Leadership is hard. The hours aren’t better; most leaders are on call 24/7 and spend 50 or more hours a week at work. The leaders who excel are those who pursue leadership because their heart is in it. Here are some of the responses to the question, “Why did you apply?” from candidates who’ve been selected for nursing promotion:

  • Leadership has been my goal since primary school.
  • When I became a preceptor, I quickly learned that mentoring and growing others is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.
  • I want to have an impact on the organization, our patients, and my team, and I see so much opportunity to grow my contributions in this role.
  • I thrive on change and challenge!

Think about this important question before your interview and practice your authentic response in advance.


Watch the following video to know – traits of successful nurses


What are some things nurses should consider after not getting promoted?

1. Acknowledge your disappointment

Not getting a nursing promotion can cause anger, resentment, and even depression if not managed properly. To avoid wallowing in your disappointment, take a beat and do something nice for yourself that helps reduce stress like treating yourself to a massage, getting a pedicure, or taking a yoga class.

2. Stay visible an enthusiastic

Now is not the time to be low-key. The more people who see what you’re capable of contributing, the better your chance of getting promoted down the road. That means building cross-functional work teams when appropriate and updating your manager’s manager on your accomplishments.

3. Keep learning, and be a resource

Promotions are all about nurses providing more benefits to the facility, and being compensated accordingly. The best way for you to boost your value to hospitals or clinics is by gaining more knowledge and experience. Read scholarly articles and journals related to your field, go to additional training, and consider going back to school. All of this knowledge will pay for itself. A natural benefit of travel nursing is that you can gain more knowledge and experience while traveling than you’d get from a single permanent job.

Once you gain knowledge, be sure to use it! Advise your co-workers and bosses on what you see as best practices – this will make you a resource to your team, which will make you stand out when your company considers nursing promotions.

4. Be honest and professional

You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re disappointed about not getting promoted, but you also shouldn’t whine or complain about it either. It is recommended that you tell co-workers “you didn’t get the promotion and that you’re looking forward to working with the person who got it.” They stress the importance of not “bad-mouthing” the person who was chosen in any way.

5. Be diligent

As much as possible, always arrive early for work. Make sure that you submit papers on time and avoid making excuses whenever you can’t deliver. You shouldn’t need constant checking if you’re aiming to get a higher position. Keep in mind that hospitals need assets and not liabilities.

6. Learn how to ask for what you want

Of all the ways to get promoted, this one might be the toughest. You can work extra hard, have unmatched knowledge and experience, and demonstrate excellent leadership skills, but if you don’t ask, chances are the promotion will go to the first person who does ask for it.

When asking for a nursing promotion, consider two things: what you’re asking for, and why you’re asking for it. Start with the “why.” Lots of people assume that promotions are about a nurse’s merit or the time a nurse has spent at a job. Instead, think about how your company would benefit from promoting you. Would you be able to spend more time teaching other nurses? Developing better nursing practices? Improving patient outcomes? These reasons will be a lot more convincing.

7. Take time for reflection

When you don’t get what you want, it’s the perfect time to get clear about what you really want. It is advised to “Ask yourself if you really wanted the job, and if you did, why. Some reflection could open you up to new possibilities and jobs you hadn’t considered.”


In conclusion

Getting passed over for things we really want is part of life. In many cases, that initial rejection offers the motivation we need to get better. If you are open to exploring ways to increase your education, training, experience, interpersonal, and nursing skills, you’ll eventually get that nursing promotion you seek.


The harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.” – Anonymous


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