RN Career planning


In 2003 University Health Network (UHN) embarked on a four year initiative, designing and implementing a comprehensive career planning and development program for its 2700 registered nurses. This initiative complimented our Vision for Nursing at UHN – Global Leaders in Nursing: New Knowledge and Innovation in Patient Centered Care. It also supports our Nursing Strategic Priorities: retention and recruitment of nurses; creating a dynamic, high quality practice environment; high staff and patient satisfaction; leadership development; learning opportunities and professional development; creating a spirit of inquiry; and giving voice to nurses at all levels.

UHN hired the consulting firm of donnerwheeler to assist them with this project. donnerwheeler is well known in the health sector, both in Canada and abroad, for assisting health-care organizations to launch comprehensive career development programs. The principals, Gail J. Donner RN, PhD and Mary M. Wheeler RN, MEd and their associates have numerous years of experience in the field of career planning and development, and provide consultation, workshops (onsite and online), and individual coaching to nurses and health-care professionals and nursing organizations. For more information about them go to www.donnerwheeler.com

UHN began the process by articulating its Career Planning and Development Philosophy which includes a commitment to creating a career resilient nursing workforce; fostering an environment and culture of collaboration to create opportunities for nurses; investing in personal development at all levels; and supporting nurses with their career planning and development. Three goals were then identified: to provide a four year comprehensive multi-faceted career planning and development program for nurses at UHN to build organizational capacity through career resilient employees; to position UHN as a leader in employee centered career planning; and to complement other UHN organizational and professional development programs.

Our approach included:

  • Strategic partnership with donnerwheeler developed in Summer 2002
  • UHN champion/lead for the program identified
  • Steering Committee established – representing all levels across three sites
  • Terms of reference and year 1-4 goals developed
  • Planning, implementation and ongoing monitoring of program
  • Program plans established over 4 years
  • Communication /marketing strategy developed

Key Components of the project include consultation, programs, and coaching.

ConsultationDonnerwheeler works with the project leader and a group of representatives to design, implement and monitor ongoing progress of the Program; they assist with internal and external marketing; they work with HR and other departments to ensure coordination of programs; and they assist with integration of career planning and development content into orientation program.

ProgramsCareer Directions©: onsite & online: A program to strengthen organizations by assisting nurses to take control of their careers; shape their futures, and grow within the organization.

Coach Mastery©: A program to develop the career coaching skills of nurse leaders (both formal and informal) in organizations.

Discovery Path©: A career revitalization program targeted to mid-career nurses.

CoachingCareer coaching – available to all workshop participants and other nurses wishing one-to-one career support.

Leadership coaching – targeted to nurses interested in pursuing leadership roles and opportunities.

New recruit coaching – directed towards retention of new recruit through assisting them to “learn to work” at UHN.

The focus in Year One has been communication. A communication plan was developed with the purpose of introducing the Career Planning and Development Program to UHN nursing staff and nursing leadership and to establish ongoing communication processes that would ensure all staff know about and are updated regularly on the Program as well as other organizational programs in place to support career development. The plan involves a number of strategies that have been developed and include:

Presentations at UHN/Site Nursing Leadership Forums and UHN Professional Practice Council

  • Updates and profiling of the program through e-mail
  • Web page for Career Planning and Development on UHN Nursing Intranet and Internet
  • Monthly presentation at UHN Nursing orientation
  • Profile of the program on MFP TV
  • Articles in the UHN newsletter
  • Presentation on the Program at Site Nursing Grand Rounds
  • Profile of the Program included in UHN Nursing Recruitment materials
  • Profiles of Career Coaches on Intranet
  • Posters and Bookmarks

As of the end of Year One most of the communication strategies have been implemented and staff awareness and knowledge of Program is building. We have completed two Coach Mastery© programs, two Career Directions© programs and 1 Discovery Path © program. We have also developed a central repository of organizational programs that is posted on our intranet and we have introduced our first group of UHN Nurse Career CoachesÑgraduates of the first Coach Mastery Program. For more information on this innovative and creative Program go to www.uhn.ca/programs/nursing/site/.

We have had a lot of positive feedback from participants. The following quote sums it up very nicely. “This is to inform you all that the program I attended (Discovery Path) was excellent. I learned so much about myself. What a great way to support nurses with their career development within UHN. A day full of self- reflection and refocusing. I would highly recommend the program.”