Stroking the Fire of Nurse Career Growth

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC - 07/03/19

Just like those who work in every other industry imaginable, nurses can experience career stagnation and boredom, as well as great professional satisfaction and personal growth. If you need to stoke the fire of your nursing career from the dying embers of your interest and passion, there are plenty of strategies for reinvigorating your healthcare career.

Think Again, Nurse

Let’s say you’ve been a telemetry nurse for 11 years. You know everything there is to know about your specialty; you’ve been to conferences, done CEUs, participated in a research project, and served as charge nurse on a regular basis. Although you love cardiac nursing and the various conditions you encounter, you can’t help feeling a little bored since it’s all become so rote and relatively predictable.

Or perhaps you work as a hospice nurse, and although this deeply personal work is close to your heart, you feel burned out after 19 years. You need a change.

No matter where you practice, how many degrees you have, or what your previous goals were, things evolve, including your sense of identity and purpose. In fact, you’ve likely changed a fair amount over the years and your interests, enthusiasms, and loves aren’t necessarily what they used to be.

When you reach an impasse and feel lost or stagnant in your nursing career, the next thing to do is think and think again. This isn’t about denying your feelings; rather, it’s about using how you feel as a jumping-off point for taking a deep dive into what might be your next step.

Of course, you can become habituated to what you do, and you may not be able to easily see the forest for the trees. You may also feel that your identity is bound up in the type of nursing you’ve always done, and giving that up for the unknown may seem very scary. But when you stop and give it some thought, you may see a new path forward if your mind and heart are receptive.

Shake Things Up

If change is in the air and you think you need to stir the pot of your nursing career, there’s plenty you can do to hasten the process. Here are some ideas to entertain:

  1. Network with colleagues by talking with people you’re connected to
  2. Use LinkedIn and your favored social media platforms to reach out to people you’d like to know.
  3. Request informational interviews with nurses and other professionals engaged in the kinds of work that call your name. You can also request to shadow them at work, if at all possible.
  4. Go to a conference or seminar related to your (as yet unfulfilled) professional interests.
  5. Find articles, blog posts, videos, and podcast episodes that may inform or inspire you regarding your interests, feelings, goals, and motivations.
  6. Utilize a career coach for exploring your options.
  7. Consider returning to school.
  8. Pursue a specialty certification.
  9. Write/journal about your nursing career, an exercise that may provide insight into the next potential chapter of your professional life.
  10. Be open, curious, and inquisitive. Look beyond nursing and healthcare for inspiration: nature, children, animals, art, music, etc. Being a well-rounded person with varied interests can open your mind and heart to possibility, beauty, and potential.
  11. Engage in deep personal development through workshops, webinars, counseling, and other techniques that can enlighten and inspire you.
  12. Be honest with yourself. There are no “shoulds” here – this is about what you truly want.

Take Inspired Action

Truly joyful change and the taking of inspired action can more readily occur when your mind and heart are open to receiving novel messages and ideas. The strategies above are only a taste of how you can explore your desires and nurture your interests.

Positive change doesn’t usually happen unless you’ve tilled the soil, planted your seeds, watered the garden, and fertilized your dreams and aspirations with hope and receptivity. A closed mind and calloused heart will get you nowhere.

Examine your career up to this point by engaging your nurse’s power of critical thinking. Now, don’t be critical of yourself or the choices you’ve made; rather, focus on gratitude for your many experiences in life and career, and then use those experiences and the knowledge you’ve gained to stoke the fire of your nursing career and create the future that you want and deserve.