Here in the desert southwest of New Mexico, soil without water dries up, cracks, and becomes utterly fallow. Your nursing career is the same.Your career needs to be fed, moistened, fertilized, and tilled on a regular basis, or it will become as dry as a desert.
So, what’s the soil of your nursing career? I would venture to say that the soil of your career is built on your professional ambition, your interest in learning and growing as a nurse, the desire to serve others in some capacity, and whatever underlying motivation caused you to become a nurse in the first place. For many of us nurses, passion lies deep in the soil, and we can bring that passion to our work if we remain connected with it over time.
If your nursing career grows and flourishes, it’s like a plant or tree that begins with roots, and continues to flower as the years go by. We could visualize the roots as the basic nursing skills and knowledge that you first accumulated during your education. At first, your tenuous understanding of many aspects of nursing, pathophysiology, and other important subjects may have felt more like tap roots—and perhaps they were—but over time, as your confidence grew, those roots took old, went deeper into the fertile soil, and continue to branch out in search of nutrients for the remainder of your career.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of ways to keep the roots, leaves, and shoots of your nursing career flourishing, and if you’re smart, there will even be incredible flowers that result from your very careful and thoughtful gardening.
In a recent post on my blog, Digital Doorway, I wrote about the subject of not letting your nursing career go dry. And in that post, I detailed the importance of taking inspired action in service to the health and fecundity of your career. I love that word—fecundity. It makes me think of deep, rich topsoil on a farm, with blue skies above, fresh water flowing, a breeze blowing, and plants reaching up from the beautiful soil to the sky.
Life can really get in the way of our ability and desire to take inspired action regarding our career, but it’s really something we need to make space for in our lives. After all, we generally spend a lot of time at work, so why not try to make work something we feel as happy about as possible?
In my post on Digital Doorway, I talked about the necessity of taking stock of your career, evaluating where you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. This means thinking about your current work as nurse, and being honest about whether it still feels like it feeds you or not. Are you feeling bored? Are you challenged enough so that you feel like you’re growing and learning? Are you treated well by your colleagues and managers? Do you feel appreciated?
Next, I wrote about networking, and if you’ve listened to The Nurse Keith Show before, you know that I’m big on the importance of networking. Connecting with other like-minded professionals can provide you with insight about your career, as well as what’s happening out there in the industry. It can also help you to have people in your corner who will serve as references, introduce you to key individuals that you want to meet, and connect you with resources if you need to move on to something new. Your network is a gold mine, and it can be an enormously beneficial form of career compost that feeds the soil from which your ambition grows. Don’t underestimate the power of your network, both within nursing and healthcare, and outside of our industry altogether.
Learning is also important, and it can be like a fertilizer that reignites your interest and passion. Conferences, seminars, webinars, articles, blog posts, podcasts, books—these are all vehicles for learning, and when you open your mind to new ways of providing nursing care, or new discoveries in disease management or symptom management, you never know what will kindle a spark that sends you on a new journey in your career.
Healthcare is always changing, and nursing is a very dynamic profession. Keeping your finger to the wind will allow you to know what’s happening in the nursing zeitgeist, and this will in turn keep your mind open to new developments and changes.
It’s also important to always be aware of your level of professional contentment. Are you challenged enough intellectually and/or clinically? Is the type of nursing that you do providing personal, emotional, and spiritual growth the feels good to you? Is your work as a nurse detracting from your life, or augmenting it?
Caring for your nursing career is all about the richness of the soil, the solidity of the roots, and the quality of the water, nutrition, and fertilizer that keep your career growing and reaching upwards towards the sun.
Gardens are captive to the weather occurring around them, and if your workplace is stormy and unhappy, your career will suffer. If there’s harassment, bullying, intimidation, and bad vibes at work, how will you feel about being a nurse if you stay in that awful professional climate for too long? Your roots will begin to shrivel, and those flowers of ambition and contentment will surely wither on the vine.
If your workplace is stormy and ugly, get out while there’s still time. If your parade gets rained on every day by an intimidating boss or a vicious coworker, you don’t need to stick around. Why should they have the power to dig up your garden and poison the well?
My friends, you need to remaining awake to what’s happening in your career. If you’re tending your garden, you’ll know when the plants are dying. Your career will feel less fruitful, and it will feel like a chore just to do the minimum to keep it alive.
Look for soil that provides you with the nutrition that can feed your career and help it to flourish. You want colleagues and managers who are supportive, a workplace that feels healthy, and day-to-day work that feels satisfying and positive.
You probably became a nurse in order to serve others or give back to society in some way, but you also became a nurse in order to have a fulfilling career, and you’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this very worthwhile garden.
Proper watering and fertilizing of your nursing career will prevent the desertification and misery that many professionals can experience when they’re not paying attention. So pay attention, till that soil, and continue to reach for a career that feeds your soul, and your nurse’s spirit.
The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by James Larson, and social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.
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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 is also 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 currently writes for MultiViews New Service, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.
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.