What you feed your nursing career is of the utmost importance to its longevity and health; just like your body, you need to feed your career a nutritional balance that will sustain its life and spur new growth and robust health. How are you feeding your nursing career?
On January 31st, 2017, I published a blog post entitled “Feeding Your Nursing Career” on my nursing blog, Digital Doorway. In that post, I stated the following:
How do you choose to optimize the nutrition that you feed to your body every day? Are you conscientious about eating enough fruits and vegetables? Do you monitor your intake of saturated fat? Are you drinking enough water and exercising? Do you avoid processed foods and soda? As you care for your body, you should also be caring for your nursing career.
Optimal nutrition for your nursing career may be quite dissimilar from that of your friends or colleagues. One nurse’s career might thrive on continuing education, attending clinical conferences, and learning new bedside nursing skills. For another nurse, her career nutrition means claiming her place as a dancer, learning to integrate her love of dance with her love of being a caregiver, perhaps through offering movement classes for nurses in need of self-care.
Your nursing career nutrition may be spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological, or none of the above. While we may sometimes want a prescription for what we need to do with our professional journey (e.g.: get a job in med/surg, earn an MSN, get a doctorate, work in the ICU), not every nurse is going to travel the same path as her nurse brothers and sisters. This can seem like both a blessing and a curse.
You see, the nutrition and sustenance needed by your nursing career may not look like that of your colleagues; in fact, your professional nutrition may be as different from another nurse’s as a paleo diet is from a kosher one.
In that blog post, I discussed how we can’t necessarily eat in our 50s like we did when we were 18. Likewise, how you feed your nursing career when you first get out of school may look very different once you’re ten years in. Your goals will change, as will the ways in which you approach your career. I wrote:
When you’re fresh out of nursing school, you’re like a sponge; there’s so much you haven’t yet experienced; every catheterization, blood draw, and central line dressing change has the potential to be a revelation. After 20 years or so, perhaps there’s less novelty, and the new clinical skills you can pick up along the way just don’t bring the same level of excitement and accomplishment.
Is your career feeling anemic or dehydrated? Does your career need an infusion of inspiration or learning? Do you just need a break? Sometimes you just have to feed your career a vacation. Here’s another blog passage:
When we get bored with a cookbook that we’ve used for ten years, do we just keep cooking the same old recipes over and over again? No, we don’t; if we need a cookbook in order to make anything more than cereal and coffee, we’ll likely go out and get ourselves another one and deliberately bring some novelty into the kitchen.
A Nursing Career Nutritional Assessment
The nutritional assessment in that blog post is worthy of reproduction right here.
Here’s my prescription for a nutritional assessment of your career. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feed my nursing career?
- What is my career asking of me?
- Am I satisfied with how my nursing career is in this very moment?
- What am I craving as a nurse?
- What experiences/knowledge/skills would be fulfilling and enlivening?
- What would I like my nursing career to look like in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
- How can I optimize my career’s nutritional intake?
A nutritional assessment of your nursing career means looking honestly and nakedly at what makes you tick as a nurse. If you’ve been hiding from your own feelings about your career as you silently burn out, this process could be somewhat painful. Those who have been avoiding their feelings about their lives as nurses may need to wash their face with cold water and brace for a dose of reality.
Doing such an assessment of your nursing career may look like leaving your last clinical position and opening a consulting practice, free from the bedside and nursing documentation. This assessment process could lead to a decision to (gulp!) go back to school and earn your PhD because, for better or worse, your professional goals simply aren’t going to come to fruition without those three letters after your name.
What Are You Hungry For?
What does your career want? What are you hungry for? How can you inject your nursing career with the robustness it needs to thrive?
Feeling hungry as a nurse can mean different things for different people. You may be hungry for knowledge, experience, more refined skills, greater responsibility, or a chance to be a leader.
The hunger that you feel can be fed by tapping into your brilliance and choosing a path to fulfillment that feels right. A career isn’t built solely on skills and knowledge, although they help; it can also be built on intuition, desire, ambition, and intellectual hunger. Find a way to understand what you’re hungry for, and feed your career the right balance of nutrients for its optimal health.
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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!
Keith 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.