Monday, February 27, 2023

What's On Your Nursing Career Runway?

Your nursing career can feel like a busy airport, a marathon, a bus terminal, a rickshaw ride, or a taxi careering the wrong way down a one-way street. If your nursing career is an airport, and you're readying your plane on the runway in order to take flight, what's on your runway and who's behind the controls?

Your nursing career runway
Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash

Who's in the Cockpit? 

In terms of your nursing career airplane that's ready for take off, who's in the pilot seat? Who's the co-pilot, and who are the flight attendants?
  • Is your inner career co-pilot a critical mother or overbearing father? 
  • Are your career choices controlled by an automatic pilot that won't take no for an answer?
  • Are your flight attendants busy making coffee when they should be battening down the hatches and locking the doors? 
  • Is there so much emotional baggage in the overhead bins that your plane is too heavy to leave the ground? 
  • Is the engine of your career overdue for repairs so that the potential velocity of your craft will keep you earthbound? 

The Baggage

We all bring baggage to the table of life, and our nursing careers are just one of the places where that baggage make its true weight known. The aforementioned overbearing father or critical mother can be like stowaways on the jet of your career.

When you contemplate your potential choices, do their voices echo in your head?
  • You should have been a doctor. 
  • Why did you waste your time on nursing school? 
  • Your brother went into the family business. Why didn't you? 
  • You're not smart enough to be a nurse. 
Other baggage might obstruct us, as well. We may have had teachers in high school who questioned our intelligence, a boss that demeaned us, or a partner or spouse who abused us emotionally.

your baggage
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash
Sometimes, to move your career forward, the baggage has to be thrown overboard. We can manage this ourselves under certain circumstances, but in some cases a psychotherapist, coach, or other helping professional may be needed.

When I engage with a client in career coaching, I sometimes suggest psychotherapy when there are apparent issues that absolutely require intervention by a mental health clinician. I have, on occasion, refused to work with a client on their career until they seek assistance for their mental, emotional, or spiritual baggage. Sometimes we can work the small stuff through in the coaching arena, but I won't hesitate to point out when a career coaching client clearly needs something more in order to break through.

Consider the Conditions for Career Flight

If your career runway is filled with emotional potholes, fading lines, and broken directional signals, perhaps there's some work you need to do in order to create the most fertile environment for success. Your inner air traffic controller may be on vacation, and the terminal may be closed for renovations, and that's okay -- time is your friend.

When readying for flight, one needs a good mapping system, reliable air traffic control data, a safe runway, a solid plane in which to fly, and a crew that can safely get you where you want to go.

If the fuselage is damaged, seek assistance in repairing it. If the runway is filled with emotional potholes, solicit help to fill them appropriately. If your crew is missing in action, take your time in hiring a new one that's more reliable (coach, therapist, friends, family, colleagues, etc). And if you're not ready for flight, stay grounded until the weather clears.

Take Off When the Time is Right

No matter what you think you want, the next step in your nursing career can only truly take flight when all favorable conditions are met. Be patient, be diligent, plan effectively, and make sure that your crew is up to the task and available to be there for you when you need them most.

Prepare the runway, fuel up for the journey, and get excited about what can happen when the conditions are right and the equipment is in tip-top shape.

Happy trails!


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.

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