Friday, August 12, 2016

Your Nursing Career and a Latte?

Just the other day, I was drinking a latte (decaf---I'm an unapologetic caffeine lightweight), and I realized that there's a very appropriate metaphor related to nurses, nursing, and a perfectly brewed latte. It may sound silly, but it may be more apt than you imagine at first.

So, think about a latte for a moment; its base is espresso, a rich, dense shot of coffee awesomeness that boasts deep flavor and a cultural history worthy of movies, books, and a great number of rabid fans around the world. Poured into and over that (hopefully) perfect shot or two of espresso is a quantity of expertly steamed milk, and when it's done right, the result is nothing short of miraculous in its creaminess, artfulness, and foamy aesthetic pleasure.

A latte with a delicate hat of foam can be decorated by a talented barista who takes the time to apply his or her expertise in order to create a visual and culinary experience that delights the senses of the appreciative coffee drinker. Is your mouth watering yet? Craving a cuppa now? I think I am!

So, enough about the latte; you want to know how this relates to nursing in any way. Indulge me.

The Espresso of Your Nurseness

As your nursing career is imbued with depth and breadth of experience, knowledge, skill, and nurse wisdom, your nurseness is like an espresso bean that has reached its peak of flavor and robustness. Your nurseness grows over time, and it takes on flavor and characteristics from everything with which it comes into contact.

A coffee bean is kissed by sun, watered by rain, fed by soil, exposed to the air, and then roasted to perfection. Similarly, your skills and knowledge as a nurse are also fed, watered, coddled, and roasted in the fires of the nursing profession (pardon the mashup of metaphors).

Where is your nurseness in terms of its development of a ripe and robust flavor? Is your career still young, enjoying the fertility of learning and soaking up the nutrients of experience? Or is your career fully ripe and bursting with the flavors of all you've seen and done?

As a mature nursing professional with significant experience under your belt, you're like a perfect espresso: satisfying, flavorful, robust, and earthy. As a newer nurse, you're already developing the flavor and depth of your chosen career.

An artful latte for the nurse

Don't Forget the Foam

The steamed milk and foam that are poured into and over the espresso of your nursing career and nurseness are like the cherry on top of a sundae. The foam may be represented by a special certification or training, deep self-knowledge and self-awareness, keen emotional intelligence. additional degrees and academic achievements, or a vertical move into management or executive nursing leadership.

The foam that you add to the recipe of the trajectory of your nursing career is a rich froth born of all you've accomplished and achieved.

The Tools of the Trade

A plain old resume created without much creativity or thoughtfulness is more like a cup of coffee brewed in a diner than a latte made by an artful barista. When you're putting together or editing your resume, does it come across as bland and generic or heartfully prepared for maximum impact? How can you make it more like a beautiful latte, with depth of flavor showcasing the measure of your nursing career, as well as a foamy topping that demonstrates a regard for beauty and aesthetics?

Meanwhile, cover letters can also be small works of letter-writing art, with flawless construction and a personalized, non-generic flavor. On the other hand, your cover letters can feel like instant coffee, something made without much thought or care. 

Adding Spice To Your Career

Just as we add cinnamon, cocoa powder, nutmeg, or flavored syrups to our lattes and coffee drinks, we also add spice to our careers. A stint with Doctors Without Borders gives you a certain leg up on other candidates, as does having Johns Hopkins on your resume. You can also spice up your nursing resume and career with various forms of volunteerism, leadership, participation in research, or a demonstrated commitment to excellence.

Building a robust professional network also adds to the spice of your career; your contacts and valued colleagues are those who will write amazing letters of recommendation, endorse you on LinkedIn, serve as excellent references, and otherwise support your professional journey. They're like sprinkles of dark chocolate shavings on the latte of your nursing career.

Be Flavorful, Nurses

Nurses, in order to stand out in the job marketplace, you need to be flavorful and unique. If you're as generic as diner coffee, you won't necessarily be as attractive to potential employers than if you were unique, flavorful, and thoughtfully put together.

Is your career a latte, a cappuccino, or a perfect Americano or cold brew? Consider the flavor you want your nursing career to have; bring those flavors forward with conscious effort and thoughtful consideration of how you can take your career to the next level, whether it's decaffeinated, half-caff, or high test.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of "Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century." He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews News Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.
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