Monday, April 11, 2022

Hey Nurse, Got Resistance?

Have you ever found yourself resisting change? Has your nursing career stalled because you're afraid of taking a risk or doing something different? Change is indeed the only constant in the universe (aside from death and taxes), so it's something that we simply need to get comfortable with, over and over again.

What if we don't change at all...and something magical just happens?

Magical Thinking

Many nurses and non-nurses alike can engage in magical thinking at various times throughout their careers. "Oh, I don't need a BSN; they'll never close the doors on associate degree nurses." Or maybe something like this: "I think I'll become a nurse entrepreneur. I'll just tell people I have a business and clients will come to me without much work."

Magical thinking is everywhere, and you can probably find it if you want to. We can think magically about how our abusive spouse will change "tomorrow". We can also think magically that we'll get a promotion without actually asking for it or throwing our hat in the ring.

In my book, magical thinking is a form of resistance, not to mention a form of self-delusion, as well as the delusion of others who trust your opinion and follow your lead.

Silence, Complicity, and Resistance

We often resist change because making a change seems too daunting or too painful. Getting a BSN or MSN may seem like something you just have to resist, even though you keep getting passed over for a promotion or can't apply for really exciting jobs that require a higher degree.

In our personal lives, we can resist saving for retirement because giving up certain luxuries is too uncomfortable to consider (I know this from experience.) We can resist so much in life, can't we? I do, probably every day. 

Perhaps you have a nurse bully on your unit, but no one is willing to go up against her; she holds a lot of power, and getting on her bad side would certainly make your life hell. Meanwhile, one of your colleagues is a frequent target of said bully, and her life is absolutely miserable; in fact, she's now exhibiting physical symptoms of the mounting stress, and you think she could even have PTSD by now.

Several other nurses conspire with the bully to make this nurse's life a living nightmare, but none of the rest of the staff -- including you -- do anything to stop this egregious behavior. Your silence equals complicity, of course; however, it also may underscore the fact that you're so afraid of rocking the boat or agitating for change that you're compromising your values by turning a blind eye to your fellow nurse's daily psychological torture.

Resistance to change comes in myriad forms, and some are uglier than others. Not leaving an abuser, putting up with a bully, not being ready to seek treatment for an addiction disorder; these are some of the darker sides of the coin. For most of us, though, resistance to change is in the minor details of life and career.

Stunted Career Growth

I've spoken with hundreds of nurses over the years and I've seen countless examples of nurses' career growth and forward trajectory being stymied by nothing other than resistance to change. Sure, exhaustion or ennui can keep you from taking action, but sometimes we just don't know what to do even though we know that change is necessary. Sometimes this may be caused by too many options (aka: option paralysis). 

Our nursing career growth can get stunted for many reasons, and it's painful to see someone stuck in a job they hate with colleagues they distrust and an endless future of joyless shifts ahead of them; isn't that just so tragic?

Risk-Taking and Inspired Action

Some nurses simply have to take the risk of quitting a rotten job and throwing themselves full force into the employment marketplace. I've seen others actually uproot to a new state or city in hopes of what we call a "geographic cure" to their problems. Others will do something more radical, volunteering for Doctors Without Borders or another organization in order to facilitate a change of scenery.

Sometimes, getting away from it all can be just what the nurse practitioner ordered. Getting a new perspective on your career could necessitate going to South Sudan to volunteer as a nurse in a refugee camp. For others, a few shifts with the local branch of Healthcare for the Homeless could be enough to shake you loose and open up your creative thinking. Brainstorms and epiphanies can come from unlikely places.

Maybe you don't need to go to Sudan in order to create inspired change in your nursing career; maybe you just need to clean your desk, dust off your resume, and do some informational interviews with nurses you've met on LinkedIn who do really cool things.

On the other hand, some of us get so mired in our way of thinking that radical action is necessary. We can get lulled into such complacency that our nursing career becomes just a way to put food on the table, completely devoid of any deeper meaning or sense of personal satisfaction and mission. Is that you -- or someone you know -- in a nutshell?

Mission: Inevitable! and the Crowbar of Change

Speaking of your mission, I have a podcast for you; episode 55 of The Nurse Keith Show focuses on your nursing vision and mission, and how to cultivate it. You may also find the show notes helpful (you can even listen to the episode right from that webpage).

The identification and fulfillment of your mission as a nurse is intrinsic to your overall satisfaction with your nursing career. If you're resisting change -- or even resisting your career in general --take a deep dive into your mission, and this may help to reinvigorate your sense of mission and the vision of who you want to be as a nurse and human being.

Your nursing career mission isn't impossible, it's inevitable; and your resistance to change, growth, or evolution is likely based in some form of fear. Because what is resistance other than a manifestation of our fear?

Embrace your nursing mission, and if you don't have one, create one. And if you're resisting change and feeling stuck, let's get the "Crowbar of Change" out of the tool shed and pry your resistance open.

Resistance is indeed a form of fear, so enlist your allies (trusted friends, colleagues, family members, faith leader, coach, counselor, or therapist), and blast through the fear to the other side. Freedom from resistance awaits you.


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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