Monday, May 14, 2018

Your Nursing Career: Attention and Intention

As a career coach for nurses, I frequently hear from nurses who feel they've been ignoring their own nursing career development for far too long and they're ready to give it the attention it deserves. Do you regularly give your nursing career focused intention and attention? If not, how can you begin?

Photo by Olloweb Solutions on Unsplash

Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

It's kind of a cliche to say that energy flows where attention goes, but sometimes cliches are undeniably true and simply overused to the point where they lose some of their power and meaning.

If you spend your working hours focused on how dysfunctional your management is and how terrible your colleagues are, that level of attention to the negative will keep you locked in a pretty cynical place. Likewise, if your marriage is falling apart and you have little personal bandwidth for considering what to do about your career, then your "attention hog" of a marriage will just continue to dominate your consciousness and your energy.

Having said this, everyone has their own personal life circumstances, some of which cannot simply be brushed aside. A disabled spouse or child will certainly require a great deal of your focus and that's as it should be -- if you can get support to take some of the pressure off, all the better. Likewise, aging parents can be a drain on your personal resources and time -- any number of life situations or conditions are not readily changed, but some creative thinking can move you towards a life that feels more balanced between your responsibilities and your needs for "me time".

I often hear from nurses who feel beaten down, demeaned, and exhausted by their work environment. I also speak with those who have personal problems standing squarely in the way of their career growth. Another cohort of nurses is those who've simply ignored everything about their career for far too long and just need to get their career train out of the station once again.

Whether your career roadblocks are personal or professional, they can be overcome with the right amount of attention. We can all run headlong into life circumstances and personal issues that stand in our way, and these can all be dealt with if we have the courage, stamina, and powers of insight to dig deep and get them resolved, or at least mitigated to whatever extent we can manage.

And Let's Not Forget Intention

Attention is a potentially powerful force in the ongoing feeding and watering of your nursing career (and your life, in general, of course). You can choose to focus your attention on physical health, exercise, parenting, gardening, or any other areas where you want your energy to flow.

No matter how focused your attention may be, we each have varying attention spans for certain areas of our lives and careers. For example, when it comes to earning CEUS, you may have precious little attention for the kind of learning that feels as if it's mindlessly done in order to renew a certification or license. Then again, working with your nursing mentor may be a place where you apply rapt attention and personal resources.

Attention can be short, moderate, or sustained in nature, and one way to get your attention to pay more dividends is to truly imbue it with your most specific and targeted intentions.

Your intentions regarding your nursing career may be varied. You may have a fairly keen intention of becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist with a focus on pediatrics. Or perhaps you intend to go back to school for a Masters in Nursing Leadership but that's about as far as you've gotten in that process. Intentions can cover anything from your smallest goals to your loftiest professional ambitions.

An intention (such as becoming a pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist) can be a powerful motivator. You may also have powerful de-motivators on board, including but not limited to anxiety, fear, financial worries, and low self-confidence.

Setting an intention means stating what you want to accomplish out loud and/or in writing (preferably both). It's at this point that you may recruit an "accountability partner" whose responsibilities are keeping tabs on your progress, offering encouragement and feedback, and facilitating the ongoing focusing of your attention on your goal(s). As mentioned above, having a dedicated mentor is one way to move things forward, and it's the type of targeted relationship that I highly recommend in relation to shifting your nursing career into overdrive.

Intentions can be powerful, and when they're fueled by the engines of SMART goals, accountability, and sustained attention, a whole lot can get accomplished. (On episode 37 of The Nurse Keith Show, I reviewed how to set SMART goals, so be sure to read the show notes and listen to the episode for even more information.)

Intention + Attention = Forward Movement

Apropos of your nursing career, the cultivation of both attention and intention is paramount. As we've discussed above, your attention can only be fully sustained when your intentions are fully realized and clear.

Energy does indeed flow where attention goes, and if you're dwelling on the negative in relation to your nursing career and/or personal life, those negative aspects will remain your psycho-emotional focus. However, if you can change your focus and bring your attention to other key areas of your life in need of energy (e.g.: your nursing career), you can then use your crystal clear intentions to move those areas of attention in the direction of true change.

Intention + attention are the keys to the equation -- are you ready to add up the ingredients and catalyze change and growth in the interest of your nursing career?


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Please visit his online platforms and reach out for his support when you need it most.

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.

As of May of 2018, Keith is the host of Mastering Nursing, an interview-style podcast showcasing inspiring, forward-thinking nurse thought leaders and innovators. 

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. Keith has written for,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, 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 and social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives, and his adorable and intelligent cat, George.

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