The Curious Nurse Goes Far


Published: 12 November 2020

In nursing education, much ado is made about the role of critical thinking in the life and healthcare career of the nurse.

To be able to think critically allows for calm, swift action in emergencies, the prevention of medical errors and the ability to use reason when confronted with enormous amounts of data, input and choices.

One characteristic very much related to critical thinking that is not widely discussed but holds great importance for nurses is curiosity. A curious nature is central to being effective as a nurse by using inquisitiveness as a means to gain a deeper understanding and insight. The engine of curiosity can help a nurse go far.

The Engine of Curiosity

The curious nurse asks questions related to wanting to know why, how, when, who, and what. Curiosity feeds learning, building upon the nurse’s complex wealth of knowledge, skills and experience.

In the presence of an unfamiliar medicine, the curious nurse wants to know how it works, what it does, and anything else that would be cogent to know. When faced with a new electronic medical record, the curious nurse doesn’t complain and roll their eyes, but instead sits down, logs in, and sees what they can learn by using their intuition and previously acquired knowledge and experience.

curious nurse

Curiosity also applies in the psychoemotional and psychospiritual realms of nursing care. When faced with a crying patient in distress, the curious nurse sets aside their agenda, sits down next to the patient and uses curiosity to elicit information about what’s happening in that patient’s heart and head.

Likewise, when a colleague is struggling, the nurse exercising curiosity makes themselves available to that nurse as a sounding board, using open-ended questions and empathy to create a sense of connection and compassionate solidarity.

Curiosity can be applied to healthcare economics, team dynamics, nursing leadership and the pursuit of higher education or specialty certification.

During self-reflection about what a nurse wants out of life, relationships, family and career, an inward-gazing curiosity can help them understand deeper motivations, desires and goals. Self-reflective questions might include:

  • How do I feel about being a nurse now as opposed to when I finished school fifteen years ago?
  • Is there something I want out of life that I don’t yet have? And if I knew what that thing was, would I know where to turn in order to get it?
  • What’s satisfying about my life/career/relationships, and what’s lacking? Is there something I need to change internally or is it the externals that need to change?
  • Why do I feel the way I do when I arrive at work? Is there something wrong that I haven’t yet put my finger on?

The Nurse’s Oyster

Curiosity is an engine that can drive both the personal and professional aspects of a nurse’s life. Without curiosity, life can feel like it’s on remote control. Rejecting remote control means that the nurse wants more than just mere survival: they want to thrive.

A curious, open-minded nature lends itself to novel ideas, inspiration and serendipity. The curious nurse reaches out to fascinating colleagues on social media; creates new connections; shows interest in emerging technologies, innovations, and ideas; and uses these as fuel for self-discovery and personal growth.

The curious nurse can go far because they are a vessel into which can be poured new experiences, knowledge and skills. And when that vessel overflows with enthusiasm and a desire for even more learning and experience, the world is indeed that nurse’s oyster.