Investigate Your Nursing Career

When you’re thinking about your nursing career, approaching it like a detective or secret agent is an interesting way to unpack the issues at hand. Your nursing career journey may be a long one, and some details can get lost along the way. So, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat, stick that oh-so-British pipe in your mouth, and begin the forensic investigation of your career.

Facts Are Your Friends

Any investigation needs to begin and end with facts. The first part of the nursing process — assessment — is also based on facts and data, so you’re already ahead of the game.

No matter where you find yourself in your nursing career, you want to assess certain things by asking astute questions, including but not limited to:

  • How much salary is enough for me to feel satisfied and well-paid?
  • How am I treated at work by both my patients and my colleagues?
  • Do I feel like I’m valued at work? Am I seen as worthy, or am I just another disposable nurse?
  • Is the area of nursing specialty that I work in satisfying to me?
  • Do I feel I have enough education, or is there more I’d like to learn or accomplish?
  • Are there skills that I would love to have under my belt?
  • Does nursing as a career still feel good enough to stay in for the long haul?
  • If I left nursing altogether, what would I want to do?
  • Is my mental, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual health improved or degraded by my work life?
  • Which of my colleagues do I most admire, and why?
  • Which of my colleagues do I least admire, and why?
  • Who are my mentors and role models?
  • What would I need in order to remain happy in my work for the next __ years?

Collecting such facts may seem either silly or daunting (or both), but this type of self-exploration and investigation may turn up some interesting answers. You may also feel uncomfortable or unhappy with what you find out. Still, facts don’t lie, so be willing to hear what they have to say.

Investigative Follow Up 

In terms of the forensic investigation of your nursing career, be careful what you ask for; because if you figure out you’re miserable and need a change, then you’re probably going to want to do something about it. And taking radical action in your career can be less than easy when you’d rather just hang onto the status quo no matter how bad it is.

In every investigation, there will be varying forms of evidence. What did you find digging through the weeds of your nursing career? What buried information or feelings did you uncover? Have you always hated the ICU but have been afraid to admit it to yourself? Does home health feel like it’s killing you?

Taking Action

The next step in your investigative follow up is to take action based on your findings, just like the steps in the nursing process. Now that you’ve gathered data and made an assessment, a plan is needed.

  • What changes need to be made immediately?
  • What changes can potentially be delayed for a while?
  • Are there consequences to these changes that you can already identify?
  • Are you willing to face whatever unforeseen consequences may arise?
  • What’s the risk of doing nothing?
  • Is there anyone else who will be impacted by your decision(s)?
  • Do you need to consult a professional or trusted friend or colleague with your decision-making process?

Asking yourself about the risk of doing nothing is crucial. If the risk of not changing is far outweighed by the benefits, then take a brave step forward and begin the change process. If you need a coach or counselor to walk you through it, that’s fine. If you can manage on your own, go for it. The important thing is taking that courageous step in the right direction.

Make sure to wrap up your investigation (for now), tie up any loose ends, make your plans, execute on those plans, and use the nursing process of evaluation and reassessment to make sure you’re still on the right track.

Change can be hard, but not changing can be even harder. A healthy change will engender a healthier and happier nursing career.


About Keith

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Keith Carlson 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, as well as at NurseKeith.com.