When The Nurse Hits A Wall, The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 108

On May 1st, 2017, I was inspired to publish a blog post that I called, “A Nurse, A Wall, And A Bloody Forehead.” We can sometimes hit a brick wall in our nursing careers, and sometimes we can break on through the other side. Which would you prefer, nurses? 

brick wall with hole

In the aforementioned post, I wrote:

As a nurse career coach, I hear a lot of stories, and some of those stories revolve around the way that nursing has sucked the life out of a nurse’s ambition and self-confidence. And what I see is that nurses who feel demoralized and beaten down sometimes stay in jobs that are killing them because they just don’t see another way. 

A Wall and a Nurse’s Bloody Forehead

When a nurse is up against the wall and just continues to bang her head against the same things over and over, her forehead is going to get bloody and her head is going to hurt. And believe me, I’m no fan of preventable head injuries.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, why do so many nurses stay in terrible jobs at awful organizations? Do they expect things to change, or are they just martyrs to the nursing cause? 

The problem is, many of them don’t even know that the wall is there in the first place. Herein lies the first challenge — recognize that the wall exists. 

In that blog post, I wrote: 

Do you know you’re trapped, or are you too caught up in misery, anxiety, ennui, or utter boredom that the wall is virtually invisible to you? 

If you can’t see the wall, the moment you wake up and notice it’s there can be breathtaking. You say, “Of course! I’m burnt out and tragically unhappy! Why couldn’t I see it before?” 

If you listen to this episode, you’ll hear some of my story of when the wall was invisible to me, and my wife had to basically hit me over the head with a dose of reality, bless her heart. 

If You Don’t See A Door……

More from the same blog post:

Some nurses tell me that they feel trapped. They also confirm that their foreheads are indeed bloodied and bruised from that darn wall-banging. However, they also tell me they don’t see a way out. 

It’s been said that if you can’t find a door to knock on, you have to create the door. You can also knock down the wall with a sledgehammer, or just cut a window in the wall to let the light in.

To paraphrase the singer Leonard Cohen (may he rest in peace), light gets in through cracks in the wall. Those cracks could be created by inklings of doubt about the healthiness of this current job. It could be the fact that all of your favorite work buddies are abandoning ship at an alarming rate and leaving you in the dust. You may also get strongly nudged by your spouse (like I did) and told unequivocally that you’re a miserable wretch and you need to give notice stat — or else! 

Opportunity Doesn’t Always Knock

You can create new opportunities for yourself by connecting with other professionals, attending meetings and seminars, engaging with a career coach, rejecting your own limiting beliefs, and using social media and other platforms to learn, absorb, and open your mind.

I’ve mentioned a SWOT Analysis on this show before. Examine your strengths, your weaknesses, your potential opportunities, and the real or perceived threats standing in your way of change and forward movement. Like I said on episode 106, email me at keith@nursekeith.com, and I’ll send you my SWOT Analysis worksheet for you to begin digging deeper into why your forehead hurts. 

Apply A Bandage And Move on

The blog posts concludes thus:

If your forehead is currently bloodied and bruised from banging repeatedly against that wall, it’s time to clean the area, cover it with a clean bandage, apply some ice. Once the first aid is done, you can then proceed to tear down the wall, cut a window in the wall, or create a door that you can walk right through to a brighter future. 

Staying in a position that no longer works for you is frankly a waste of precious time, as well as your talents and skills. If you’re working in an environment where bullies rules the roost, that’s another signal that getting out is paramount. And if you feel undervalued, overworked, underpaid, or otherwise disenfranchised as a nursing professional, that’s another signal that greener pastures are calling. 

When your forehead has healed and you’ve created a new opportunity for yourself, you may look back on the days of utter professional unhappiness and laugh at how long it took you to make a move. You may also then feel inspired to help respected but unhappy colleagues to follow in your inspired footsteps. 

Nurses are valuable, respected, and in high demand. You should be happy in your career and feel good about what you do and where you work. If the walls are in your way and you need a change, summon your courage and break on through to the other side (with a nod to the late Jim Morrison). 

Get out there and break down those walls, nurses. It’s time. 


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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith was previously the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”

He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for Nurse.org, Nurse.com, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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