Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Thinking Innovatively About Your Nursing Career Development

Your nursing career is yours to create, and every nurse’s path can be unique, innovative, and idiosyncratic with proper care. At the same time, your many obligations and  responsibilities can steer you away from your uniqueness and leave you in a rut of choosing the path of least resistance. There are many strategies for choosing a career journey that fits your vision of who you want to be as a healthcare professional, and it’s worth exploring those strategies for the ones that can most readily move you forward. 

Thoughtfully Assess Your Career

Salient questions are a good place to begin your self-assessment. 
  • Looking back, how and why did you make certain choices? 
  • Did you take a med-surg job right out of school because everyone said you should, even though it went against every fiber of your being? 
  • Was workplace bullying something you tolerated because you didn’t think you had another choice? 
  • Was your normal modus operandi to accept imperfect positions out of fear of not being offered anything better? 
  • Did you avoid going to back school because you heard colleagues complaining how some nurse who pursued her MSN thought she was better than everyone?
  • Are you in the wrong specialty or working with the wrong patient population? 
  • Would you prefer to be in a completely non-clinical role or start your own business? 
  • What skills, knowledge, and experiences do you most value? 
  • What are your greatest gifts, and have you manifested them in your career? 
Myriad factors can lead to poor choices, and sometimes the worst choice is doing nothing. If you’re suffering from boredom, job dissatisfaction, or burnout, you may be stuck because you haven’t had the temerity or energy to do anything about it and continue to just slog through yet another day.

They say that a life well-lived is the best life of all. We could also say that the most well-lived career is one where you make choices based on your deepest desires, not what professors, colleagues, family, blogs, books, and articles say. When you thoughtfully consider your nursing career, is it what you honestly want it to be? 

Make a Plan

Few careers advance without effort. If you happen to have ruby red shoes that can instantaneously transport you to the job of your dreams, good for you. But for most of us mere mortals, we need to do the down and dirty work to get there. 

If you’ve asked yourself some of the aforementioned questions, perhaps you’ve realized that changes must be made in order to move forward with self-assurance and grace. 

So how do you make a plan to move forward? Once you’ve honestly answered the difficult questions, you must face the music and proactively initiate change. 
For example, let’s say you’ve spent the first eight years of your nursing career in med-surg, telemetry, and step-down, and now you realize that hospice is what you’ve always wanted but have been afraid to explore a non-acute setting. What proactive steps can you take? You can call a friend who works in hospice and ask if you can pick her brain. You can also ask if she can introduce you to her manager for the purpose of requesting an informational interview. And you can hop on LinkedIn and reach out to hospice nurses and nurse managers in your area.   

Meanwhile, there are journals, tweetchats, blogs, podcasts, and all manner of media you can consume. You might even attend a hospice conference or seminar for further research. These valuable activities may lead you to even more questions, or maybe a realization that hospice isn’t a good fit after all. 

Speaking of not being a good fit, sometimes we can reverse engineer our career reinvention by identifying what we don’t want to do and crossing those off our list. In this way, we narrow the field to what catches our attention, and then we take a deeper dive into those potential paths. 

A Creative Career Trajectory

A creative and innovative approach to your nursing career is key to long-term satisfaction as a healthcare professional. We can easily fall victim to “group think”, the tendency to go along with the crowd and do what “everyone” seems to think is the “right” thing, even when our gut tells us otherwise. 

It’s not necessarily easy to go against the grain, but many a nurse has carved an idiosyncratic path, beginning with the godmother of modern nursing, the courageously innovative Florence Nightingale. With Ms. Nightingale as your model of a nurse who didn’t flinch while carving out her own journey, you can look your career square in the eye, assess who you truly want to be as a nurse, and then take thoughtful steps towards bringing that vision to fruition. 


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 NurseKeith.com.

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 Nurse.com, Nurse.org, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, BlackDoctor.org, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog, NursingCE.com, 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 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 using the hashtag #georgethecatsantafe. 

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