When I became a nurse in 1996, I was a 32-year-old step-father of a teenager, my wife was in college, and I was in need of a remunerative and flexible career that would carry me into my thirties and beyond after floundering throughout my twenties. With several nurses on my dad's side of the family, nursing became my targeted professional career, and I launched into the educational fray as a double art school dropout with a mortal fear of math and science, subjects I had barely survived in high school. It was carpe diem or bust.
Long story short, I did indeed thrive in nursing school, eschewed the regular Med-Surg route (much to everyone's dismay), and created a solid career in community health, case management, home health, and hospice, with a short stint in public health for good measure. While I'm not the sharpest nurse when it comes to hard clinical skills, the other aspects of my nursesness have stood me in good stead, and I have no regrets about my chosen out-of-the-box path.
Now, as a nurse entrepreneur, I'm forging another outside-the-lines trajectory for myself, and am currently no longer employed as a nurse in any clinical or administrative fashion. Am I still a nurse? You bet. Do I feel like a nurse? Certainly. Will others potentially see me as no longer a "real" nurse? Perhaps. Do I care? Not a hoot.
Your stories are more fascinating than mine; I love hearing them, and I love cheering you on from the sidelines. Nurses are legion, and we are the heart, blood, connective tissue, and nervous system of healthcare, depending on how you look at it. You might even say we're the mitochondria of healthcare. Do you like that metaphor?
What is it that makes nursing tick for you? What are you grateful for? It's easy to complain about staffing levels, salaries, benefits, long hours, difficult colleagues, needy patients, and uncaring executives and administrators; however, on the flip side, what can you say nursing has done for you as a person? What are the ways in which your personal and professional growth have been catalyzed or bolstered by nursing? How have you been empowered as a nurse?
- How have your communication skills been developed through the medium of nursing?
- What kinds of people have you encountered as a nurse that you may not have met in another industry?
- What have you learned about yourself? How have you grown?
- What experiences has nursing delivered to you that you are grateful for?
- In the course of your nursing career, what has happened or what have you seen that is uniquely nursing-related?
- What would you not trade for the world vis-a-vis your nursing career and experiences?
Finally, I need to thank you. Thank you for being a nurse. Thank you for reading this blog, whether for the first time or over the last however many years. Thank you for the ways in which you've supported me, my career coaching practice, my podcasts, and my speaking and writing.
Thank you for the lives you've touched and saved, the hands you've held, the diapers you've changed, the tears and sweat you've shed, the aches and pains you've endured and overcome.
Thank you for contributing to this noble and esteemed profession, and for being a representative of the nursing nation.
Just being a nurse is a gift to society, and doing it well is a service beyond measure. I give thanks for you, and I give thanks for what this profession has given me. Being a nurse is the gift that keeps on giving, and my nurse identity is a sacred one.
Many blessings to you at this time of openly expressed gratitude; and may the gratitude you feel be reflected back to you one thousand times over.
NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, 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, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, 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.