Being Assertive in Your Nursing Career, The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 34

In episode 34 of The Nurse Keith Show, holistic career coach Keith Carlson discusses the importance of learning to be assertive in your nursing career, and not allowing culturally dominant stigmas about assertiveness dissuade you from using your voice in support of what you want out of work and life.

Assertive definition

At the beginning of this episode, Keith reminds listeners that he is now on Instagram as @nursekeithcoaching, and he promises an hour of coaching on the phone or Skype with any listener of The Nurse Keith Show who follows him on that platform and lets him know that they’ve done so.

Follow Nurse Keith on Instagram!Meanwhile, Keith discusses the double standard in our society in terms of men and women being assertive in the workplace. Men who push for what they want are praised for being go-getters, and women who demonstrate assertiveness are branded as pushy and aggressive. Keith has also seen nurses who are afraid to be assertive, especially since they’ve been taught that assertiveness and strong personal boundaries is not feminine. Men are enculturated from birth to grab what they want in life, and women need to relearn that it is okay to reach out for their goals.

Gender disparities are apparent in our society, and when it comes to wages, it has been clearly shown that men earn more than women as nurses, and they also move up within the profession more quickly than women, despite the fact that men are still only 10% of the nursing population.

Keith shares that part of your job as a nurse is to learn to be assertive, and to take risks to ask for what is best for you and your life.

When we Google the term “assertive”, we find the definition, “having or showing a confident and forceful personality.” Synonyms of assertive include confident, self-confident, bold, decisive, assured, self-assured, self-possessed, forthright, firm, emphatic.

On Wikipedia, assertiveness is discussed thus:

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines assertiveness as:

A form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view.[1]

During the second half of the 20th century, assertiveness was increasingly singled out as a behavioral skill taught by many personal development experts, behavior therapists, and cognitive behavioral therapists. Assertiveness is often linked to self-esteem. The term and concept was popularized to the general public by books such as Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Behavior (1970) by Robert E. Alberti and Michael L. Emmons and When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How To Cope Using the Skills of Systematic Assertiveness Therapy (1975) by Manuel J. Smith.

This episode is all about nurses owning their bold self-confidence and their ability to stand up for their own firm personal and professional boundaries.

41NDhYU4fGL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Keith also recommends Beth Boynton’s book, “Confident Voices: The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication and Creating Positive Workplaces.”

He also recommends her new nursing textbook (in which Keith actually has one small chapter), and it’s called, “Successful Nurse Communication: Self Care, Healthy Workplaces, and Rewarding Careers.”

Beth can be found at, and one of her interviews on RNFM Radio can be heard here.
Just a note: In this episode, I mentioned that if I agreed to work an extra shift on our wedding anniversary, my wife probably wouldn’t talk to me for a day or so. Truly, she’s an understanding, kind, compassionate, and agreeable person, and she’d honestly just need to talk about it, express her feelings, and then move on. She practices very assertive communication filtered through compassion, and is an example to me of how to do so.

Please contact Keith with your stories of assertiveness in the workplace, the practice of firm and healthy boundaries, and the ways in which you are challenged by these concepts, or made stronger by them.

Thanks for tuning into episode 34 of The Nurse Keith Show!

The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by James Larson, and social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.

Please consider leaving a review of The Nurse Keith Show over on iTunes; this helps more nurses and healthcare professionals find the show and benefit from the information being shared. Just visit iTunes, click on the iTunes store, search for The Nurse Keith Show under podcasts, and leave a review, and voila. Thanks!

Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!


Nurse Keith photoKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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