Monday, October 03, 2016

Nurses, It Isn't Bragging If It's True and Authentic

In my work as a holistic career coach for nurses, I frequently hear from nurses who don't like to talk about themselves when applying for nursing positions or networking. They often will say, "I don't like to brag." What these nurses need to understand is that tooting your own horn in the interest of your professional career growth and development isn't bragging if it's true.

Nurses, toot your horn!

 Rising Above The Noise 

In a competitive nursing job marketplace filled with noise and static, we have to find a way to break through the noise and leverage our awesomeness, and this means being able to "pitch" ourselves in a way that makes us attractive to potential employers and hiring managers.

When I speak with nurses about their skills, expertise, and accomplishments, some are quite shy, showing a proclivity to remain meek, modest, demure, and unassuming. It's been said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I believe that nurses who are able to clearly and concisely articulate their excellence are the ones who can more readily land their ideal jobs, create effective resumes and cover letters, and use their LinkedIn profiles as the powerful networking and marketing tools they are.

At the very top of a nursing resume, a nurse needs to create a professional summary that is a concise and powerful encapsulation of who she is and what makes her tick as a nurse. Rather than mild-mannered generic language about communication, teamwork, and attention to detail, the nurse boldly states how she has navigated her career and become the nurse who she is, or what experience and skills and expert knowledge she brings to the table. This isn't bragging, folks; it's the truth. For example:
Highly experienced Masters-prepared nursing professional with proven expertise in clinical team management, clinical supervision of registered nurses, and the development of effective nursing teams in the ICU, CCU, and PACU environment.

In current position, developed and implemented highly effective patient care tracking system piloted in CCU and subsequently adopted throughout facility. Presented research poster regarding tracking system at 2015 AACN conference to significant acclaim.
Additional accomplishments include Nurse of the Year Award from __________ Health System (2011 and 2013), multiple publications in peer-reviewed critical care journals (see "Publications" section below), and completion of first of three years of PhD program in nursing education. 
This nurse isn't afraid to toot her horn, tell it like it is, and put her most powerful foot forward by enumerating her awards and accomplishments. Clearly expressed self-confidence is not braggadocio; rather, it's a bold statement of self-worth and recognition of one's own value.

Confidence and Boldness

Employers like to see confidence. While boldness, forthrightness, or assertiveness may turn off certain hiring managers (likely the ones who are simply looking for undemanding nursing cannon fodder for a poorly organized facility that runs its nurses into the proverbial ground), forward-thinking managers will be impressed by someone who is able to unashamedly articulate his or her value while looking them square in the eye.

Like I've said before on both this blog and on my podcast, a little guerilla marketing goes a long way in the 21st-century nursing job marketplace; so if you can summon the gumption to toot your horn loudly enough for influential people to hear, you may find doors opening that may not open as readily for the humble nurse whose modesty keeps her eyes to the floor and her resume as sharp as a butter knife.

Tooting Isn't Bragging

Being assertive in your nursing career must include being assertive in how you position yourself and leverage your expertise and knowledge. Tooting your horn isn't bragging; it's stating the truth with gusto and authenticity. In this sense, you don't inflate your importance or stretch the truth; rather, you tell it like it is and assert what is most wonderful about you as a nurse, employee, clinician, colleague, and human being.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be assertive. Go ahead; toot your horn.


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. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

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, 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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