Nursing is a profession that calls for grace under pressure, calm amidst the storm, critical thinking, the art of caregiving, and a scientific mind. For nurses who feel the call, other aspects that reign supreme include collaboration, empathy, communication, and emotional and relational intelligence. So when we consider the concept of nursing like you really mean it, what does your work look like and how do you want to show up in the world? 

Authenticity and Clarity of Purpose

Nursing like you mean it manifests as honesty, authenticity, clear boundaries, and being completely without artifice or dishonesty about who you are.  

If you’re striving for authenticity, it doesn’t simply mean you wear your heart on your sleeve and always allow your emotions to show. In fact, doing so can actually sacrifice boundaries and not engender the trust you’re seeking in the nurse-patient relationship, or in relationships with colleagues.

For nurses who understand “therapeutic use of self”, you divulge personal feelings or states of mind to patients only when your own example can demonstrate something of therapeutic value. For example, if your patient is grieving the loss of her teenage nephew, sharing that you lost your niece to leukemia when she was 13 can build an important bridge of trust and shared experience between you. You don’t reveal this information in order to elicit her sympathy (although she’ll likely express it); rather, you do so to cement your relationship by creating a bond built on empathy and mutual understanding. 

Being authentic means being able to feel, acknowledge, and label your own emotions (this is basic emotional intelligence), and doing so for the people with whom you interact (emotional intelligence in action, sometimes referred to as relational intelligence). In this way, you can respond appropriately for each situation you encounter with clarity of purpose. 

The Nurse’s Mind

Nursing like you mean it translates in having an flexible, creative mind that runs on the engines of critical thinking and curiosity. 

Critical thinking is your ability to read a piece of research, review a policy, practice a new procedure, or ponder an order without simply accepting it at face value. Your critical mind weighs what it reads, gauges its accuracy, and responds with, “I agree and see that this makes sense,” or perhaps, “I understand what this is saying, but my nurse’s intuition and curious mind tell me that it may not be quite right and needs verification.” 

With your critical thinking cap on, you take that order and ask another nurse for their honest opinion. Or you call the doctor who wrote an order you’re questioning, express your opinion, and request a response. 

Curiosity can lead you into deeper authenticity and nursing like you mean it, and this can be emotional, creative, or intellectual in nature. For instance, you walk into the nurses’ station and you can tell the unit secretary is trying to hide that she’s been crying. You stoop down so you’re at eye level and you ask if there’s anything you can do for her. This is nursing, even if you’re responding to a colleague’s suffering; after all, you don’t just become a nurse when you walk into a patient’s room. 

On an entirely different end of your nursing life, you enter the unit and hear that a new electronic medical record (EMR) is being introduced beginning that day. Everyone immediately groans and begins complaining about how much extra work it’s going to be, but you decide to withhold judgment and see if it’s as user-friendly as your manager says it is. You know it’ll make your work harder for a while, but your curious mind wants to see what happens and allow for the potential of a positive outcome. 

Your curious mind will look at an ECG a second time in order to confirm the abnormality you think you just saw. That same mind will double-check a pump that’s been acting up, share your thoughts with your supervisor on some new evidence-based research, or attend a conference where you’ll meet colleagues from around the world and hear about cutting-edge therapies in your specialty. Your curious mind will lead you to new places. 

You Mean It, Nurse

Nursing like you mean it is curiosity and empathy in action; a mind that always wants more; a heart and spirit that love authentic connection; and the ability to be an excellent collaborative colleague and stellar team member. 

Nursing like you mean it shows up as still being a nurse when someone falls at the grocery store and you check for injuries before helping her to her feet. It means that everything you experience, see, feel, or think gets filtered through that fabulous mind of yours as your nursing nature discerns the truth. 

A nurse who means it is a nurse who lives it, breathes it, and feels the pride of being it. Nursing like you mean it is allowing yourself to be the nurse you truly know yourself to be.