Monday, April 17, 2023

Letting Your Nursing Career Magic Out of the Hat

Nurses, do you need some magic to get your nursing career back on track? Career development for nurses isn't rocket science, but manifesting some magic and joy for the betterment of your career is certainly possible if you want it. Is it time to let the rabbit out of the hat?

Career Magic

Have You Lost the Magic?

If your nursing career feels like it's lost some of its magic and mojo, don't despair -- there's plenty you can do to make things right again.

Sometimes, our careers feel lackluster because our current area of practice or specialty no longer feels like a good fit -- after all, we change personally over time, and our professional lives need to change along with us.

At other times, it's a negative workplace culture or poor cultural fit that makes your work feel like a slog. Even if the workplace culture isn't terrible, you may simply not feel aligned with your colleagues, and that can make you feel like a nurse fish out of water.

Career magic can be lost when your personal life has changed, and your needs (or the needs of your family) are impacting how you feel about your work. Years of night shift may no longer serve you when your elderly parents need you present for daytime management of their healthcare. Or maybe your physical health or stamina aren't what they used to be, and you need a job that feels like a better fit at this point in your life.

Losing the magic doesn't mean it's gone forever, but it does mean that you need to put some skin in the game, apply some elbow grease, and figure out how to set things right again.

A (Not So) Magical Strategy

Coming up with a magical strategy isn't really magic -- it's more about persistence, attention, intention, and the desire to do the hard work of finding your new path. Here are some ideas for where to begin your inquiry:

1) Assess where you are in your current area of work or specialty. Is it fulfilling? Does it utilize the skill set(s) that you feel speak to who you are and who you want to be as a nurse? If your area of practice has lost its hold on you, moving forward may be impossible until you come up with a new plan of action.

2) Seek informational interviews with nurses doing work that piques your curiosity.

3) Attend a conference or seminar about an area of professional interest.

4) Consume various media that share content of relevance to your situation and your professional desires (e.g.: articles, books, blog posts, videos, and podcasts).

5) Shadow a nurse who does a type of nursing that you find fascinating.

6) Work with a career coach, life coach, or counselor who can walk you through a process of research, career development, and personal/professional self-discovery.

7) Seek opportunities to utilize personality inventories (e.g.: Myers Briggs) or other tools (e.g.: DISC assessment; StrengthFinders) that will help you deepen your level of self-inquiry and self-knowledge. 

Honesty, Curiosity, and Self-Knowledge

Nurses, sometimes we need to take a good hard look at ourselves, our careers, and our circumstances. It took me a number of years to slowly extricate myself from direct care and nursing management into a new life of nurse entrepreneurship and self-employment. Getting to that point was a process that didn't happen overnight. In that formative period, there were moments of doubt, lots of energy and excitement, occasional panic, and the inner knowledge that I was indeed on the right path, even when I wavered. Did it take psychotherapy, career and business coaching, my wife's undying support, and an amazing leap of faith to make it happen? You bet.

I know nurses who've taken incredible risks to make a career shift. I've also met nurses who've simply known what to do, and their career transition actually did seem like magic -- even to them. However, the majority of people assessing the potential for a major professional change in order to bring back the magic have some hard work ahead of them to get there.

Can a curious mind deliver you to the professional promised land? It can certainly help. Do deep self-knowledge and honesty assist in the process? Absolutely. How can you make a major life change without knowing what you want, who you are, and what motivates you to change?

Be Prepared for Surprises

When you embark on a courageous journey of creating more magic in your career and your professional life, be prepared for surprises. Did my friend and colleague Caroline Cardenas know that she'd write her Master's in Nursing thesis on the use of the hula hoop and hoop dancing in the prevention of nurse burnout? She did not -- her team of advisors led her there. Sometimes it's the people you surround yourself with and the tools you utilize that take you over the finish line towards change.

If you'd told me when I graduated from nursing school in 1996 that I would be a nurse podcaster, blogger, freelance writer, and keynote speaker in less than 20 years, I wouldn't have believed you -- after all, I was planning to open my own independent hospice. And if you'd told me that I'd be completely comfortable speaking on stage in front of hundreds of nurses, I would've offered you a drink and asked you to sit down and get ahold of yourself. After all, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans (to paraphrase the incomparable John Lennon). It's also been said that when you make plans, God laughs.

This professional nursing journey is what you make it. You may find an area of specialty practice that remains compelling and fulfilling for 30 or 40 years. Then again, the magic can disappear at any moment, and you're faced with the decision of staying the course out of habit or striking into the unknown in search of a novel path of professional self-discovery.

Career magic can indeed be magical, but it can also entail the seemingly un-magical shedding of copious blood, sweat, and tears to create the life and career you want. How you approach the creation of magic is up to you, but know that the magic is always there within your grasp if you're willing to invite it to your door.


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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