Your Nursing Career: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum

Last Updated: 20 October 2023

profile picture


Keith Carlson

Join the 100,000s of health professionals who subscribe to The Handover

Over the course of your nursing career, you experience and accomplish a great deal.

You earn degrees and certifications, care for patients, engage in continuing education, take part in research, and otherwise move your career forward in inspiring ways. In the final analysis, the whole of your professional life is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

Learning Across the Nursing Lifespan

If we could name one thing that nurses always need to be doing, it would be learning. We learn plenty in nursing school, but healthcare is a moving target, and the evidence base for our nursing interventions is constantly changing. Especially in the 21st century, we face increasing rates of change in the healthcare space, and keeping up with the evolution of medicine and nursing is, in essence, a full-time job.

You are continually learning, and those pieces of learning become a part of who you are and how you practice. We could view each chunk of newly acquired data in a vacuum, but in reality, those chunks of knowledge and skill add up to an exponentially increasing sum almost beyond measure.

Mature nursing reflecting on career

Non-Linear Knowledge

Adding to the calculus of your potentially unlimited growth as a nursing professional is the notion of your accumulated non-linear knowledge.

While the skills of listening, critical thinking, and therapeutic communication can be taught, what cannot necessarily be taught are the skills of intuitive feeling and understanding.

In your work as a nurse, you may have encountered healthcare professionals who seem to have an intuitive gift that allows them to communicate with patients in a manner altogether different from their peers. Certain individuals simply know how to feel into a situation, discern the unspoken, and verbalize what others can't find the words for.

Non-linear knowledge can't be quantified. It is the sum of the ways in which you feel, intuit, and judge situations and people from a deep place of emotional and relational intelligence. It is a priceless commodity that cannot be clearly written on a resume but can be clearly communicated through a touch or a smile.

Life Experience Counts

While you definitely bring your nursing education and experience to the table, your life experience counts for more than you may give yourself credit for.

As a parent, son, daughter, grandparent, spouse, or friend, you learn so much in your relationships, and those experiences feed and amplify your natural relational intelligence.

If you've traveled to other countries or speak another language, the accumulated cultural sensitivity and understanding help you understand others and be sensitive to the differences that make every human unique.

Your life experience dovetails with your work as a nurse, adding qualities and characteristics that add up to the person you are.

Taking Synergistic Stock

Life experience, your many relationships, the accumulation of skills, and non-linear knowledge are vital components of who you are as a nurse.

Taken as the sum of your many parts, one could surmise that you are a well-rounded nurse who brings much to your work as a healthcare professional. But when we consider that the whole is actually a vital synthesis that is ever-growing and evolving, we can say for certain that the whole of who you are as a nurse far surpasses the sum of the parts.

Your work as a nurse is a gift, and the entire expanse of your life informs and creates the calculation of who you are and what you offer to the world as a nursing professional.

Join the 100,000s of health professionals who subscribe to The Handover

Subscribe to The Handover

Everything you need to know, every Saturday morning