Nurse Careers: Two Paths. Pick Well

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I teach students and new nurses.
One of my favorite lessons, because it’s crucially important:

There are two career paths you can follow as a nurse. Just two. Let me explain:

On the good path, you learn how to get along with people and persuade them better and better, and you enjoy your job more each day, because your positive influence brings out the best in everyone around you and makes your work far easier and enjoyable.

On the bad path, you don’t learn those good path skills; instead you learn to hate your patients, your life, your work, and anyone who feels differently (e.g. students and newbies). You eat nurses’ young, and try your best to make all around you just as jaded and miserable as you. It only gets worse with time: every shift and every year. It’s arguably a form of hell on earth. Real or metaphor, as you choose: it’s ugly.

Far too many nurses (and others of course) go down the bad path. Over the years, their attitudes darken and progressively poison all around them, so that their work experience darkens as well. They bring their own dark cloud where they go. If you haven’t met them, you haven’t been a nurse, or a patient.

When it comes to the people we meet, we make our own weather. Few people figure this out; the rest often pay a price. Sad!

We all learn from experience, but only some of us learn good habits and useful lessons. Many of us pick up bad habits and attitudes instead, and learn things that aren’t true, as in “Patients are just like that. There’s nothing you can do about it,” and the like. Lies.

Learn from the young-eating mean and bitter cautionary tale nurses out there. I doubt many started out that way, if any. They drifted in a bad direction and pay an heavy price over many years. Learn from them and avoid their fate. Whatever you do, make good and certain to stay on the good path: learn how, for everyone’s sake, especially your own. Your fate and soul, your life and career, all depend on it.

Everything else is details.


  1. I agree with this and it goes so well with my last blog post! I think part of the reason young nurses fall down the “bad path” so easily and quickly is that we are pushed to the brinks at work and can so easily become burnt out. Also, I don’t think we necessarily get credit where credit is due all the time from upper management or even our patients. As humans we seek and desire gratitude and want to be liked, but we don’t always get the satisfaction in nursing of getting an applause or pat on your back for doing somethign awesome (because it is assumed, it is our job). I know it can be frustrating when management fails to acknowledge the hard work the floor nurses put it and can lead to very very poor morale, causing even more that slippery slope down the rabbit hole of miserable, cranky RNs.

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  2. On one job I decided we should give out awards called “KUDOS” – for just doing a good job, for a positive interaction with a family member, for going the extra mile, for smiling and whistling while at work, etc etc. They looked at me as if I had 2 heads. I still did it on my own but I could hear the air hissing out of THAT balloon pretty fast…

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    1. It’s so much easier to destroy than creste. Too many people will readily destroy to prevent any risk of being outdone. They doom themselves that way. Don’t let them doom you too! I fail often with such projects – but not always. Don’t give up!

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    1. I enjoy your point, becuase I don’t focus on nurse, A san audience, I do to some extent. My studies and practice are based on human universals: psychology, social psychology, lessons from history. None of it specific to nurses, who sadly and out of a desire for prestige tend to focus only on nursing knowledge, to all nurses’ detriment. I teach people how to be better people, and try to learn the same. Nurses and patients benefit!

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    1. I don’t think they’re rare, fear not! I just want no one to suffer the dark path, or suffer the wrath of those who fall prey to it. A nurse’s career is long and fraught with peril in this regard! Thanks for your concern and acting on it! Such is what lead humanity forward, and dare I suggest, onto the good path…


    1. Thanks! It’s based on broad study over many years, and experience of the same sort. What we become in time is our choice, but few are taught this lesson, and what we become without it? Basically blind luck. A slight change in direction, reinforced over years, makes a huge impact in a long career. We each can become saint or troll. All of us do to some extent. A lesson worth learning, and worth teaching!

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    1. It’s a long-held conviction of mine, based on much study and experience. W emake our own reality more than we realize, then we blame the world for what we’ve created. Too, too often, but it’s NEVER inevitable. That’s why I teach it. The worst, meanest, laziest nurses out there ( they exist, of course, we just don’t like to achknowledge what we all know) serve as very useful lessons. Don’t go down that path! They teach withouth trying, if we know how to learn their lesson.


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