Your Wild and Precious Nursing Career: What Will You Do With It?


Published: 02 March 2017

In the worlds of nurses, nursing and healthcare, it can often feel like our futures are foretold before we even graduate from school.

Many people tell us what we should do; from professors and preceptors to colleagues and family members. Everyone seems to know what our nursing career should look like.

Is there a reason we can’t decide for ourselves?

A great deal of the career satisfaction that we derive from our chosen path stems from making choices that resonate with who we are and what we want to accomplish, professionally and personally.

While our parents or spouse may see a hospital career as the most prudent choice, the hospital may be the last place we want to be. Or maybe we’re being pressured to get a Master’s degree but we can’t yet see a good enough reason to make that investment of money, time, blood, sweat, and tears.

Misunderstanding and Underestimating

Plenty of people have opinions about what we’re supposed to do as nurses and many of those opinions are based on the misunderstanding and underestimating of what nurses are capable of.

Mixed signals concept with signs | Image

Even our nursing colleagues will shake their heads in disapproval when we tell them about our plans.

  • “You’re not going to work in the hospital? If you don’t, you won’t be a real nurse!”
  • “You’re going to become a freelance nurse writer? Is that a smart thing to do?”
  • “You want to open your own business? Nurses aren’t entrepreneurs.”

When others express a desire to control what we do and don’t choose to do as nurses, sometimes they’re speaking from their own experience, and sometimes it’s just their fear and discomfort with the unknown.

The older nurse who discourages you from becoming a nurse writer has her own sad story of her father dissuading her from putting pen to paper; the nurse who urges you to stay in the hospital hates her job and doesn’t really want to see you succeed because it would force her to take stock of her own situation more honestly.

Nurses underestimate themselves and one another, and the public misunderstands what a nurse can truly do. Television and movies often portray nurses as silent handmaidens to sexy and intelligent doctors; no wonder many members of the public think we don’t do that much.

What Would You Do?

Mary Oliver, the world-famous American author and poet, once said:

“What is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

(Oliver 1992)

You can ask yourself a very similar question about your nursing career, but only do so if you’re choosing to dig deeper into your truest desires and aspirations.

So nurses, what indeed will you do with your precious nursing career?

Will you follow the dictates and misguided opinions of others?

Will you base it all on salary reports?

Will you listen to mentors and colleagues who understand and empathise with your deeper motivations?

Will you look deep inside yourself for the answers?

You have one nursing career, no matter how many permutations it has along the way: seize the opportunity to sculpt a career that truly speaks to your heart’s desire.

Your success and satisfaction will be the icing on the cake.

  • Oliver, M 1992, ‘The Summer Day’, New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, Boston, MA.