Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hope, Fear, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

As I write these words, shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine based on breakthrough mRNA technology have been arriving to hospitals for several days, with the first shots already having been administered. Simultaneously, we've now surpassed an awful milestone of 300,000 Americans lost to the virus, which is akin to the entire population of Pittsburgh being wiped out. With frequently more than 3,000 dead on any given day (the comparison being that we lost approximately 3,000 people on September 11th, 2001), the expected post-Thanksgiving surge is upon us, just as experts forewarned (and the public ignored).

With Christmas and the New Year ahead of us, now is not the time for the doffing of masks and giving up on social distancing and other recommended measures. In fact, it's time for us to double down and work together in order to move us into 2021 with hope for seeing this pandemic in the rearview mirror.

Monday, November 16, 2020

COVID-19: Misaligned Priorities and Missed Opportunities

(Note: this blog post was originally published on LinkedIn.) 

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, information and misinformation travel like wildfire. Meanwhile, as we individually and collectively struggle with aligning our priorities and making good choices, things get overlooked and left in the dust, including people.

Missteps have been the hallmark of the pandemic here in the United States, especially when it comes to the Trump administration's lackluster and criminally misguided response, denial of reality, rejection of science, and the consistent undermining of expertise.

No matter the administration in power, mistakes and missed opportunities will continue to be made, just not as purposefully and cynically as that of the Trump White House and its spineless Republican lackeys.

                                                                                                Photo by Adli Wahid on

Monday, September 07, 2020

Nurse, What's Your Personal or Professional "Everest"?

Speaking with a nurse colleague the other day, she was referring to something she’s attempting to do in her life outside of nursing as her “Personal Everest”. These types of endeavors can be scary, and they can cause you to question yourself along the way. Is there something you want to conquer or master, either personally or professionally? Is there something in your sights that you just can’t let go of until you do it? 

When George Mallory was asked why he was going to attempt to summit Everest, he allegedly said, “Because it’s there”. Whatever it is you want to do, I bet you have a better reason that that. Can you find it?

Your Nursing Everest

Your nursing Everest could be any number of things. Is it achieving your next degree? Is it mastering a difficult clinical skill, a new software program, or a novel patient interviewing technique? Or how about a specialty certification that would really move the needle in your nursing career if you finally had it under your belt? 

Nursing school can feel like the biggest mountain you've ever climbed. When you graduate, your first Everest is passing the NCLEX, and then the challenge of finding (and keeping) your first job is next. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I failed the NCLEX the first time and passing it on the second try certainly felt like climbing a very steep mountain. I took myself on a three-day retreat in a cabin in the woods and drilled those test-taking strategies into my brain until I wanted to scream -- but I did end up passing, thanks to the gods and goddesses of nursing!

Sometimes just getting through difficult shifts can feel like scuba diving without oxygen, walking on the moon without weighted boots, or fishing with string and a stale piece of bread. How do we ever do it day in and day out? 

I know nurses whose Everest is getting through their PhD dissertation or their masters thesis. Others find that learning to podcast, blog, write, speak in public, or start a business is on their list. What's on yours? 

Compare and Despair = A Huge Waste of Energy

If you're trying to do something quite difficult or challenging, comparing your relative rate of success or failure to others is definitely not in your best interest -- in fact, it's a huge waste of time and energy. 

If it's true that comparing ourselves to others isn't a hot idea (which I know for a fact it isn't!), why do we insist on doing it so much? Is it this "I" culture of selfies, curated lives, and only showing on social media the stuff that makes it all look fun and easy? How many of us post about our failures, weaknesses, and bad experiences? I know people who use social media in a very transparent and authentic way, and I also see others who I imagine taking 10 or 20 shots before they get the one they think will show them in the best light. Is it really healthy for us to only see the perfection in others' lives and not the struggles and sweat inherent in achieving success? 

If you're comparing yourself to others and despairing that you're not measuring up, all I can tell you is that you have to stop -- it's hurting you a lot and probably not helping at all. 

Challenge as Metaphor

Whether your Everest is bowling a perfect game or learning to run a code, it doesn't really matter -- the fact remains that it's yours to own, take on, and achieve if you want to set your sights on it. 

Let's say you want to become a certified scuba diver. There's lots of scary stuff to learn, and threats to your ability to breathe are probably scarier than most. In scuba, your life is in your own hands, as well as that of your instructor and fellow divers -- it's intense, and there's no escaping the fact that you'll be challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally as you learn to -- literally -- go deeper and deeper. 

If we take this scuba diving metaphor further, we could compare it to the depths you have to go to in order to become, for example, an expert circulating nurse in the OR  -- neither is easy to do, but many people achieve it and so can you if you set your mind to it. 

Maybe you're learning how to rebuild the engine of an old car and you're having a hard time getting the carburetor adjustments just right. Or maybe you're on rewrite number four of what you think could be the next great American novel. We all take on various challenges throughout our lives -- even marriage, parenting, and getting old are challenging (I've done the first two and I'm currently working on the third!) 

Look deeply at your personal and professional challenges and try to ascertain the lessons and metaphors inherent in each. Will getting certified in scuba empower you in your nursing career? I surmise it will. Would earning your PhD in nursing make you more apt to push yourself to achieve something meaningful in your personal life? Very likely. It's all in your mind, and you can decide what meaning these endeavors hold for you. 

Climb, Climb, Climb

Life is a climb, and some have it harder than others. Your life may be as challenging as Christopher Reeve's or as easy as can be -- but I bet it's probably somewhere in between. There are kids with inoperable brain cancer, people who win the lottery, and those who trudge through life with little support and almost no money. We're all on the spectrum of difficulty and adversity. 

Luck can seem arbitrary -- and maybe it is -- but how we react to our experiences and the world around us is where the rubber really hits the road. When my colleague talked about frustration with her own inability to measure up to her expectations of herself, I mentioned a concept called "frustration tolerance". In psychology, this pertains to how angry, sad, hurt, or stultified you become when faced with adversity, and how you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. How tolerant of frustration are you? 

In the end, you need to keep climbing. Christopher Reeve didn't just stop breathing because he was tired of being a quadriplegic, and I didn't stop studying because I failed the NCLEX. And I bet there are things you've done that you can look back on and see how you just didn't give up. What was it like to keep climbing and then reach the summit?

We all have our own paths to climb and our own frustrations to live with and overcome. What's your Everest, and how hard are you willing to work in order to successfully reach the top? 


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. Keith has 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. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George. You can follow George the Cat on Instagram using the hashtag, #georgethecatsantafe. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Universal Impact of Racial Disparities and Systemic Racism: It's Everyone's Responsibility

(Author's note: this article was originally published on LinkedIn on June 30, 2020)

In these days of the globally devastating COVID-19 pandemic and the powerfully burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, two crucial moments in human history are coalescing on the world stage in a striking overlapping pattern that seems unprecedented in scope.

Racial disparities and the pandemic are hardly mutually exclusive, and the coexisting pandemic of police brutality against communities of color is not at all separate from the socioeconomic inequalities that are, to a large extent, exacerbated and informed by the egregious systemic targeting of non-white people on multiple levels in societies around the world over the course of countless generations.

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Monday, June 08, 2020

Nurses, George Floyd, Racial Disparities, and the World We'd Like to See

At this unsettling time in the United States and around the world, racism is being confronted head-on by citizens who've simply had enough of the status quo. The knowledge of deep racial disparities in healthcare are nothing new, and the understanding that people of color are treated more poorly within the American healthcare system is also an old story that never seems to change.

But now, amidst the  COVID-19 pandemic and rampant global fear, economic insecurity, and a population tired of lip service to diversity and inclusion, millions are saying, "No more to endemic racism and police brutality against people of color!"

We nurses are part of the conversation because we're citizens, voters, and those who deliver care, conduct research, and perform myriad other tasks related to public health, acute care, hospice, home health, and beyond. Is our profession up to the task of confronting racism and other societal ills more boldly than ever before? 

Stop the war on black people

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Profound Meaning of Nurses' Week During a Pandemic: Nurses Show Up

Nurses' Week is upon us, and May 12th, 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Florence Nightingale, the veritable progenitor of the modern profession of nursing. Meanwhile, we also find ourselves in the middle of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife as declared late in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the healthcare arm of the United Nations. Add to this the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have a recipe for a very profound moment when it comes to nurses and the nursing profession in this global context.

Photo by Anna Shvets from

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Nurse Keith's 4-1-20 COVID-19 Roundup

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the world is upside down and inside out. We are all reeling from the overwhelming disruption of most every aspect of human life: economics, work, and career; education across the lifespan, from preschool to post-doctoral research; faith communities; migrant workers; the undocumented; the frail, elderly, and vulnerable; transportation; small business; and the actual details of survival, including food, clothing companionship, and shelter.

Other than those still living who experienced World War II, the Holocaust, or even the 1918 so-called "Spanish Flu", none of us have a memory of such a devastating worldwide event. The AIDS epidemic at its awful zenith in the 1980s is the closest we've come since the Second World War, and that was enough to strike fear into the hearts of many and cause massive loss throughout the 80s and 90s until we got a handle on the virus and rendered it mostly a chronic illness that can be survived for decades by most infected individuals.

Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19, Nurses, and Staying Informed in Trying Times

Greetings from Nurse Keith Nation HQ here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I'm spending the majority of my waking hours monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely in order to inform myself and my online tribe of nurses and healthcare professionals. Like many others, I'm doing my best to stay up-to-date and use my various platforms (as well as good old-fashioned emails and phone calls) to educate and inform as many people as I can about the latest developments regarding this very real pandemic sweeping the globe.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Seven Traits of Effective Nurse Leaders

Please enjoy this guest post from Samantha Boone of Aspen University:

Rejoice in your work; never lose sight of the nursing leader you are now and the nursing leader you will become.” – Sue Fitzsimons

Leadership shapes innovation and change, and as more and more baby boomers retire, the baton is being passed down to new generations of nurse leaders. “Senior leaders look to surround themselves with creative and talented individuals to accomplish not only organizational goals but also a shared vision,” says Dr. Marcos Gayol, Assistant Dean of Nursing at Aspen University. “In doing so, they also provide these same individuals with opportunities for growth, involvement, and fellowship with career advancement goals in mind.”

Monday, January 06, 2020

Who's Driving The Bus of Your Nursing Career?

Plenty of people probably have opinions about what your nursing career should look like. However, the person behind the wheel of your nursing career should be you. Are you truly driving the bus of your nursing career?

Who's driving the bus of your nursing career?