Monday, July 25, 2022

The Continuum of Nurse Career Growth

The growth of your career as a nurse can be consciously self-generated, or simply a result of happenstance and a laissez-faire attitude towards professional development. Neither of these options are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but a thoughtfully sculpted career is definitely fodder for a much richer, satisfying, and rewarding trajectory.

Whereas employment can often feel like a means to an economic end (ie: survival), there is also the notion that work is an avenue to self-awareness, a sense of personal pride, contribution to community and society, and a more full engagement in life.

Work, Fear and Struggle

It is true that, at certain points in life, work serves a particular purpose. Especially at a young age, prior to professional training or advanced education, work is often a utilitarian exercise, while it can also feed our sense of pride and purpose---and, perhaps, aspirations for more.

There are many work ethics out there, and many of us may be familiar with the so-called "Puritan Work Ethic" that espouses hard work and a frugal lifestyle. There are also the 21st-century pop culture notions of "The Four-Hour Work Week" and get rich quick plans,

Meanwhile, there are also fears and anxieties frequently experienced by those who grew up during the Great Depression.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, there are many households simply struggling to survive, with breadwinners working multiple jobs in the face of a rising cost of living, frozen wages, and increased difficulty finding health insurance (the Affordable Care Act notwithstanding) or planning for retirement. 

Yes, work can feel like something we just need to do in order to survive. But we can also consider the ways in which work doesn't just pay the bills and put food on the table, but also how it feeds us on the inside.

The Continuum of Consciousness

Considering these suppositions, where do you fall on the continuum of consciousness vis-à-vis your nursing career? Are you “sculpting” a career that’s truly meant for you to embody? Or, to the contrary, are you gliding along a track that, while more or less acceptable, seems like it was created for you by those who feel they have the right to dictate your professional pathway?

Along these same lines, is your career driven by something akin to the Puritan Work Ethic, or are you driven by fear, whether it be fear of not having enough, fear of losing status, or simply fear of being without work?

This continuum of consciousness vis-a-vis our nursing career trajectory can change frequently, perhaps even daily. Some days, you may feel completely connected at work, totally aware of how you make a difference in the lives of others. On other days, work may feel like a total slog, a chore to complete as quickly as possible, with your blinders fully in place so that you go through your day without much sense of connection or purpose.

No matter what happens in the day to day, the larger arc is what we're after. Even though it's no fun to survive those difficult workdays that feel like they'll never end, if the majority of your work life is positive, growthful, and adding meaning to your life, you're on the right track.

Sculpting A Nursing Career That Fits

When you consciously sculpt your nursing career, you are the driver, and your decisions create the path ahead of you. And if you're not exactly sure where you're going, don't worry; the path can be created with each step of the journey.

Sometimes, we follow our intuition, applying for a job because "something" tells us we should give it a try. At other times, a potential position comes into our awareness, and we simply "know" that the position is the best step towards a future that we're creating. Our intuition can guide us, and we can also consciously seek out opportunities that we feel are the strongest choices for us at this particular time.

The main question is this: are you consciously creating your career, or is your career just happening to you? While it may be fine to coast along from time to time, it's my opinion that a consciously created career is the most potentially satisfying.

Paying Attention

So, dear Reader, pay attention to the arc of your career. Have you made good choices? If not, is there a way to remedy that situation? If your current position has you feeling stuck, what can you do to get unstuck? Who can you turn to for advice or support? What action steps can you take to get back on track?

Paying conscious attention is a powerful way to feel like you're taking the reins of your career. Others' opinions don't need to matter that much, unless they're opinions that you value. Do you feel like there's something you need to do because "they" say you "should"? Well, who are "they", anyway, and why do you need to listen to what they have to say?

Some people function from that above-mentioned place of fear, and others function from a place of abundance and grace. Which lens would you prefer to look through?

Take the reins of your career path. Find your place on the continuum of consciousness. Create a career that works for you, and make your nursing career a work of art of which you're proud.

Water and feed your nursing career with conscious creativity and attention, and it will feed you from the inside out.


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. 

No comments: