The life and career of a nurse can be inspiring and fulfilling, and, like any career, it can also become stale, stagnant, and not as fulfilling as it used to be if it’s not carefully fed and watered. All jobs risk becoming rote and robotic, and nursing is no exception. Compassion fatigue, burnout, stress, or garden-variety boredom can transform a career you used to love into one you tolerate at best and perhaps even loathe. So how can you breathe new life into your nursing career before it reaches the point of no return?
Begin With Assessment
Like the old nursing process, assessment is always an excellent place to start. To jump-start such an inquiry, try asking yourself some pointed questions:
- How do I feel about my current professional identity?
- Am I doing work that’s aligned with my values?
- Do I resonate with the values and culture of my employer and workplace?
- Does my work tap into my greatest strengths and provide opportunities to learn and grow?
- Is there room for professional development in my workplace?
- Am I currently on a professional path that feels exciting and continues to hold my attention?
- If I could serve in any role, is this the one I would choose?
The assessment process doesn’t stop there, but these questions — when answered completely honestly — can open doors, turn over rocks, and reveal otherwise overlooked or ignored goals and desires. Want to breathe more life into your career? The answers to these and other questions hold golden keys to your future.
A Great Nursing Career Doesn’t Happen by Accident
While some of the questions mentioned above may seem wishful thinking, the fact remains that amazing nursing careers don’t just happen by accident. Sure, we can sleepwalk through our careers and take the path of least resistance, but what fun is that and how interesting can it be to tow such a line?
To create a nursing career and work style closely aligned with our values, chosen lifestyle, and family needs, we must know what those values are, why our lifestyle matters to us, and what choices will most help create the best living environment for us and our family.
Nurses who run successful businesses and enjoy setting their hours didn’t get there by waving a magic wand and casting a spell — they got there through hard work, sweat equity, and creating something that resonates with their bold vision of what they ultimately want to bring to the world.
A nurse earning her PhD likely had quite a journey to reach that incredible accomplishment. Maybe she was a single mom who worked as a CNA for several years. Then she found her way through LPN school, becoming an RN and then a nurse practitioner until she finally reached what is commonly known as a terminal degree. But she’s not done there. She may have even more in mind, like becoming a keynote speaker, writing a bestselling book, or creating a medical product for which she will hold a patent. Her career certainly didn’t happen accidentally — it came about through thoughtful consideration and highly focused effort.
The Lifesaving Breath
Every person’s circumstance is different, and breathing life into your career can come in many forms and flavors. Asking yourself questions like those mentioned above can help to catalyze a process of inquiry that may lead you to the next iteration of your career. However, once the questions have been asked, it’s time to take inspired action.
The lifesaving breath that resuscitates your career might necessitate quitting a deadening, numbing job or leaving a dysfunctional and toxic workplace. On the other hand, you may decide that going back to school, starting a business, changing jobs, or pursuing a certification is your next step. Sometimes, a leave of absence, a trip abroad, or meaningful community service may do the trick.
You may be led to set up informational interviews with nurses who are willing to open up about their careers. You might find recruiters on LinkedIn and ask for meetings to discuss your situation and what you might be looking for.
Attending conferences can bring new ideas, exciting connections, and inspiration. Hiring a career coach could be one strategy for inciting new directions, or you may need a life or relationship coach who can help you sort out your priorities or your marriage.
If you feel that the area where you’re living has lost its luster, a move to a new city or state could provide the opportunity for adventure and new horizons (although so-called geographic cures aren’t always wholly successful since, as they say, “wherever you go, there you are”).
The lifesaving breath that may save your career can come from any direction. Begin with asking pertinent questions that open an inner conversation. Then explore possibilities, entertain plausible directions, and be receptive to serendipity. A flexible and open mind is your best friend when looking for the next manifestation of your nursing career. Such an undertaking will undoubtedly bear fruit when you begin with a deep breath, an honest look inside yourself, and an inspired process of personal and vocational inquiry.