Be the Nurse You've Always Dreamed of Being


Published: 27 November 2019

As nurses, we have the numbers and the influence to address injustices and outdated practices, and we can bring our fresh perspectives to the table when we choose to rise up and speak out.

When you decided to become a nurse, you likely had many dreams and preconceived notions of what it would be like.

You may have had a mother who was a nurse, or you watched TV and movies featuring nurses and internalised those messages.

Whatever influences brought you to nursing, the reality may have been shockingly different than what you imagined.

So, if you’re disappointed with your chosen profession, how do you become the nurse you always wanted to be?

Assess Your Expectations

Assessment is always the first step of the nursing process, so consider the expectations you had before becoming a nurse.

Did you think nursing was a club you’d be welcomed into with open arms? Did you expect to be mentored until you were ready to practice independently?

Maybe your experiences have lived up to these expectations, or maybe they've fallen short.

Is money all that hospitals and healthcare organisations seem to care about? Are nurses simply cogs in a giant medical machine?

Your experience is likely universal, and while that’s cold comfort, it can help you understand that you must learn how to advocate for yourself.

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Are you expecting too much from others or from the system? Is the reality way too far from your fantasy of what it would be like?

You need to be pretty thick-skinned in nursing, but you really don’t have to sell your soul in order to make a living and have a satisfying career.

Stand Up, Speak Out and Advocate

There are countless problems in healthcare, and you’re going to encounter many of them in nursing.

As has been said many times, your silence in the face of a problem or injustice is equal to complicity in that problem or injustice. Nelson Mandela didn’t stay silent about the horrors of apartheid. Mother Teresa didn’t just sit back and watch the poor die of hunger and lack of medical care. And Florence Nightingale didn’t just watch soldiers dying on the battlefields of the Crimea and say, 'Well what can I do about it, anyway?'

What did these courageous people do? They saw something and found a way to fix it.

Nightingale singlehandedly transformed battlefield medicine, saved thousands of lives, founded the science of biostatistics and created the modern profession of nursing. Nelson Mandela went to jail for his beliefs for over 25 years, only to be released and elected the first black president of South Africa. And Mother Theresa? She saved lives, healed the sick, fed the hungry and inspired millions.

Can you do something powerful, too? Of course you can.

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If you see bullying on your hospital unit, find out how to push back against a bully and get them removed from the workplace.

Is the culture of your agency very negative? Galvanise your colleagues to band together and transform your workplace.

Have relationships between nurses and doctors in your clinic gone sour? Dig deep and figure out how to change that situation.

Clinically, if you’re aware that a certain way that a particular task is commonly done leads to unnecessary infections, be a strong nurse advocate and propose a change that can essentially eliminate the problem.

Nurses’ opinions matter, and as highly respected healthcare professionals, we can leverage the public trust that we enjoy and be change agents at work and in the wider society. You can be a nursing thought leader and influencer if you choose to create a public forum for your opinions.

Be That Nurse

There’s a common cliche that you must first be the change that you want to see in the world. Taking that further, we could also say that you must be the nurse that you want to see in the world.

Be the kind patient advocate you feel patients deserve. Be the collaborative colleague who says, 'How can I help?' or 'Is there something I can do to make a difference today?'

If you can’t find a workplace where you can be happy and productive, create your own business as a nurse entrepreneur and strike out on your own. If you want the culture of your hospital to change, begin the crucial conversations that can make that happen.

Being the nurse you always dreamed of being isn’t rocket science, but it takes courage, inspiration, grit, determination and the willingness to ruffle feathers and go against the grain.

As Oscar Wilde once famously said:

Be yourself; everyone else is taken.

Be yourself, nurse, and stand up and claim your power. There’s nothing for you to do but create the career you want; go out there and make it happen.


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Keith Carlson View profile
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at and Digital Doorway.