Monday, August 27, 2018

Your Nursing Career and The Skill of Writing

When we think of the skills that make a nurse a nurse, writing is not the first one that may come to mind. PICC lines, wound care, ventilators, IVs, and physical assessment are the kinds of things we think of, but the power of the pen, as it were, is definitely not in the running (except, of course, for basic nursing documentation). However, I'll posit that writing is a skill that can serve your nursing career in both mundane and powerful ways throughout the years. What's your level of skill as a writer, and do you want to improve?

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Career Development 101

In terms of career development and management, being able to articulate your skills, professionalism, knowledge, and expertise in written form is crucial. From writing resumes and cover letters to penning essays for your MSN, DNP, or PhD program, being able to express who you are and what makes you tick is a valuable asset.

Throughout your nursing career, hiring a career coach or resume writer is always a viable option, keeping in mind that such services cost money, and sometimes coaches like myself may not be available as quickly as you may need them. While a career coach can sharpen your resume and tweak your cover letter, your ability to give that individual something of quality to begin working with is extremely helpful (and often more cost effective). If you can at least put together a rudimentary resume and cover letter, this can jump-start the process and help you learn along the way.

When it comes to essay writing for graduate school, a scholarship, or other purposes, the same situation arises: you can choose to hire a professional to assist you in getting your essay written. Having said that, no one can describe the arc of your career and your innermost yearnings and motivations like you can, so if you have the writing "chops" to get those thoughts expressed, all the better for you and your chances of success. Again, a professional essay writer can extract that information from you over time, but you will generally pay well for that level of highly skilled and, admittedly, valuable service.

Self-Expression

A significant power of writing is that of enabling the writer to express themselves. Self-expression is in and of itself reason enough to take up writing -- it gives the writer a blank page on which to unleash pain, joy, challenge, grief, and all manner of feelings and reflections. Consider writing a type of pressure release valve for the mind, heart, and soul.

Florence Nightingale did an enormous amount of writing that provides us with a window into a brilliant and inquisitive mind. Where would we be without her written contributions? Perhaps you're the next Nightingale and the world is simply waiting for you to tell them what you think.

In the stressful worlds of nursing, healthcare, and medicine, we can work ourselves to the bone in dedication to our teams, our patients, and the institutions where we're employed. Death may surround us and we may witness extraordinary moments of pain, suffering, joy, and triumph; describing these experiences can have a healing effect on our own psyche as well as those who are lucky enough to read what we've composed (if we choose to share it).

You may more readily express yourself in paint or clay, and that's wonderful if a medium other than writing works well for you. Nonetheless, your need for expression in words remains, and being able to do so can be personally satisfying and an enormous emotional release.

Self-expression as a writer can run the gamut from private journals for your eyes only to writing a blog or a book that you self-publish or submit for publication.

The Potential for Publication

In nursing and healthcare, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in research and publication. You may be involved in a fascinating work project that deserves to be recorded for posterity, or perhaps your position on the Board of Directors of a non-profit foundation requires you to share your reflections and opinions on paper for newsletters, a website, or an annual report.

As one of the first nurse bloggers on the scene, I can attest to the fact that publicly sharing my thoughts about nursing and healthcare on this very blog since 2005 has led to some extraordinary opportunities. When I began blogging, it was simply a means to express my thoughts and blow off steam about my work as a nurse. I had no aspirations to do anything more, but the growing notoriety of this blog has led to becoming a published author and sought after freelance nurse writer. This journey as a writer has resulted in a relatively reliable income stream that supplements my other endeavors and puts some food on the table.

Refining your writing skills generally requires a great deal of practice and some study along the way. As your ability to skillfully put words together increases, so does your need to find new ways to express what you want to convey. Building your vocabulary and your understanding of various writing techniques can catapult your writing to the next level, if you so choose. As you gain confidence and hone your craft, your desire to know more may mushroom apace.

The Pen (or Keyboard) is Mightier

When faced with stressful or difficult situations in the course of your work as a nurse, there's nothing like being able to skillfully articulate what's going on around you. If you witness bullying, harassment, negativity, or are yourself a target of such aberrant workplace behavior, having the means to tell the story of that experience can be extremely useful.

Speaking is a skill that we may address in another blog post or podcast, but for the purposes of this article, we need to focus on how translating your complaints, concerns, and observations to "paper" (whether digital or otherwise) can serve you and the greater whole.

We all recognize that documentation is paramount in nursing and medicine. While our clinical notes may not be the Great American Novel (nor should they be!), we can acknowledge that accurately recording what happens in the course of patient care can bring a situation to life for those who need to know. You can talk a blue streak to administration about what's happening, but if you can get it all convincingly written, that documentation is less ephemeral than the spoken word and becomes a small and valuable part of the organization's written history and overall institutional knowledge.

A Well-Rounded Mind

Learning to write well can be a boon to your career, stimulate personal growth, and help you to develop a more well-rounded mind. And one way to dig deeper into the craft of writing is to read everything you can, from fiction and poetry to history and clinical texts. Reading provides insight into the minds of other writers and can serve to stimulate your thinking and writing processes. From being an avid reader, the leap to avid writer can sometimes seem less anxiety-producing.

From a well-rounded and well-informed mind, you can position yourself as a thought leader and influencer, freelance writer, or perhaps an expert blogger, podcaster, or motivational/keynote speaker. The sky's the limit, and all of these potential paths can be born of a consistent writing practice.

Consider the potential benefits of learning to write well, and utilize that power to advance any aspect of your career that is crying out for growth, expansion, and a personal commitment to mastery.

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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Please visit his online platforms and reach out for his support when you need it most.

Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

As of May of 2018, Keith is the host of Mastering Nursing, an interview-style podcast showcasing inspiring, forward-thinking nurse thought leaders and innovators. 

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for Nurse.com, Nurse.org, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, the ANA blog, NursingCE.com, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives, and his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George.
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