Monday, June 13, 2022

Is The Nurse's Glass Half Full?

It's no secret that there's a multitude of unhappy nurses out there in the world. From mandatory overtime to unhealthy nurse-patient ratios, I admit there are very valid reasons for this seeming epidemic of discontent. So, is the nursing glass half-full or half-empty? I guess it depends on who you're drinking with (and perhaps what you're drinking). 

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Reasons To Be Cheerful---Or Not

This blog post isn't really about the aforementioned multitude of reasons that explain nurses' rampant unhappiness. A new study mentioned recently on Twitter states that a full one-third of nurses are unhappy with either their jobs or their careers. I get it.

There are also nurses who say, "I love my work, but I hate my job". I get that too.

Sadly, it's a given that too many nurses work in environments that are unhealthy, unsupportive, demanding and back-breaking, and that's indeed a sad state of affairs.

It's Who You Talk To

Taking into consideration the relative level of discontent in the nursing profession, your worldview can be significantly influenced by who you talk to and who you spend time with. The tenor of the conversation amongst your nursing colleagues will, of course, influence your perspective, so think about who your conversational partners are---and who they could be.

If your Thursday morning coffee klatsch is regularly attended by jaded nurses who spend the hour railing against the hospital and gossiping about doctors and interns (and one another), there's a definite downside to the time you spend at that particular table.

And if your idea of a good time is focusing on what's wrong rather than what's right (or how to fix what's wrong), then there are plenty of nurses who'll eagerly buy you another round in order to keep you waxing negative, thus justifying and solidifying their own negative bias.

"Bartender, another round of 'Negatinis', please."

Let's Be Realistic

Like I said towards the beginning of this post, I get it. There's a lot that's wrong with the picture in both nursing and the wider world of healthcare. That's a given. At the same time, there are nurses, doctors, administrators and theorists who really want to make it right. Fighting the good fight to make things better is a noble cause, and many are called to engage in that particular battle. Kudos to them.

Simultaneously, there are nurses who, tired of the mainstream game, have dipped their toes into entrepreneurship, carving out satisfying careers that defy the very notion of what it even means to be a nurse. Kudos to them, too.

Meanwhile, some nurses are creating new opportunities for themselves within the mainstream healthcare system, leveraging their skills as coaches, consultants, IT gurus and all manner of novel yet robust professional roles. Kudos all around.

There's a place for everyone at the table. In fact, you can even build your own table if the current ones don't quite match your vision of what your career could be.

Nurse's Choice

So, you can talk to the jaded, cynical and burnt out nurses who just want to see the glass as perpetually half empty, or you can interact with the nurses who are the positive role models and forward thinkers of the profession who definitely view the glass as perpetually half full.

It’s tiring to hang out with the jaded and cynical complainers, but it can be energizing (and fun!) to hang out with the optimistic nurses who are actively making their careers the best that they can be.

Who are you talking to and spending time with? Are you drinking the bitter and cynical dregs of nursing station coffee? Are you pounding down "Negatinis" with unhappy abandon? Or are you drinking from the cup of optimism, sharing with your colleagues a vision of what's possible, even as you acknowledge the stark realities of 21st-century healthcare?

The choice is yours, my friends, and I invite you to my table, where we serve Positive Punch and Optimism Smoothies.



Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a Board Certified Nurse Coach offering holistic career development for nurses and healthcare professionals. All things Nurse Keith can be found at

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.

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. written for,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University,, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog,, 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. 

Living in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, Keith shares a magical life with his partner, Shada McKenzie, a gifted, empathic, and highly skilled traditional astrologer and reader of the tarot. They regularly cavort with their remarkably adorable animal companions, George, Buck, and Lorca. You can find George the Cat on Instagram by using the hashtag #georgethecatsantafe. You can find Buck and Lorca wherever tasty treats and fun walks can be found.

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