Monday, November 14, 2016

Building Your Nursing Career House

As a nurse, the house of your nursing career must stand on a solid foundation; once that foundation has been laid, your career can be built in the form of any structure you see fit. How are you building the house of your nursing career?

Start With A Foundation

Every career must be built upon a foundation of skill, knowledge, and expertise that serves as the underpinnings of the trajectory of that professional process. Formal education is one way that we begin to build that foundation, although in previous generations apprenticeship was the vehicle of acquiring what was needed to succeed in a particular trade.

As a nurse, your foundation is built by cinder blocks of expertise acquired during your nursing school experience (or experiences); and as a novice nurse, you continue to hone skills that need more practice, and you acquire new knowledge along the way. If you begin to specialize in a specific form of nursing, the particular database of that area of focus becomes central to the architecture of your career.

An Artist's Touch

In every nursing professional's career, there are moments when the nurse must make a determination if he or she is going to take the tried and true path, the well-worn track, or deviate from the norm and build a career house that's a bit different, a little out of the ordinary.

I've previously written on this blog about nurse iconoclasts, and I want to continue to drive home the notion that you can bring an artist's touch to the way you build your nursing career. Frank Lloyd Wright built homes, office buildings, and museums that completely subverted architectural norms; he was unapologetic in his rejection of the status quo, and he forged ahead with dogged perseverance and persistence. His path was not easy, but it was, in the end, his and his alone.

Your nursing career house does not need to look like anyone else's; it doesn't have to resemble the careers that you were told were exemplars of what a "normal" nurse does. Some architects stick with the modes of building that everyone expects, and the results can indeed be perfectly suitable. However, the tried and true path can sometimes feel stale or unoriginal, and taking a meandering journey may be what works for some who choose to differentiate from the norm.

Just as a woodworker may make the interior of a home unique and idiosyncratic, your nursing career can also be a work of art that your create from your imagination. Remember, the foundation holds it all together, but your embellishments will make it your own, not to mention the radical styles of success that you create with your mind, heart, and soul.

Embellish As You Wish

In the 21st century, there are nurse writers, nurse filmmakers, nurse podcasters, and nurse artists. Some nurses are creating new types of businesses and positions that are devoid of any clinical identity whatsoever, but they still consider themselves nurses.

There are several members of Congress who are nurses, and while a Congressperson may not have time to work as a nurse, their "nursesness" may (or must) to some extent inform who they are, how they think, and what they do.

Your career house may have a tin roof, a slate roof, or a roof made of high-tech mini solar panels. You may choose to heat the house of your career with the fuel of creative pursuits (art, music, filmmaking, podcasting) or with the fuel of intellectual prowess (a PhD, an added degree in law, or perhaps the writing of books that inspire the next generation of nurses to even greater heights).

Creation, Destruction, and Everything Between

Whether you build a career house of brick, straw, adobe, or Grecian columns is up to you. Once the foundation is laid, your house can be whatever you desire; moreover, if your house gets old, if the walls crack, or the paint begins to peel, you can always do some demolition, add an extra room, or build a new wing.

If your nursing career house feels claustrophobic and limited, you can put in a window for a breath of fresh air. A window in your career's house may look out upon a vista you haven't considered before (like writing, teaching, leaving the hospital environment, or starting a business); tearing down a wall or doing some demolition may reveal that what you've been doing has come to a natural end, and you must take down the walls of limitation so that you can build something new.

Your nursing career house may have scaffolding when under construction, and it may sometimes feel drafty as you build a fresh new structure in which to live as a nurse. The wiring and plumbing may feel dodgy when you're uncertain about what's next, and you may have to flush a lot of waste down the toilet if your self-worth has taken some hits over the years and you need to release outmoded ways of thinking.

Cut The Ribbon

When you've come through a period of career demolition and reconstruction, the dust will eventually settle. As that dust clears, you can get out a broom and dustpan, mop the floor, repaint the walls, and then invite everyone to the ceremony when you're ready to cut the ribbon on the new iteration of the house of your nursing career. Whether you're launching a new business or simply changing specialties, invite others to share in your excitement and joy.

Build your foundation, add windows, tear down walls, and demolish that which no longer serves you. When your nursing career transitions to its next home, you can stand back, admire your handiwork, and dig into the next chapter that you have built from the sweat equity of your own labor, thought, ambition, and love.


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.

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, AusMed, American Sentinel University, 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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