Just today, I was speaking to a nurse career coaching client on the phone, and the word curiosity became the central theme of what I was trying to convey to her about her nursing career. When it comes to career development, we don’t often hear the word curiosity used, but I believe it needs to be one of the strongest underpinnings of our ongoing career journey whether we’re a nurse, a doctor, a carpenter, or an accountant.

Curious catSimilarly, passion must also be one of the building blocks of our nursing careers — or any career, for that matter. Passion can fuel one’s curiosity about a particular career path or area of nursing specialization, and applied curiosity can uncover new passions and personal and professional yearnings.

Curiosity Never Killed the Nurse

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but it’s never been known to kill the nurse (unless, like Nurse Jackie, the nurse chooses to apply his or her curiosity to medication diversion and drug abuse).

When you are curious, many things can result:

  • You avoid boredom and burnout
  • You seek out new experiences
  • Colleagues respond positively to your curiosity
  • You consistently feed your mind with new and exciting ideas
  • Accumulating knowledge becomes second nature, whether nursing related or not
  • Patient interaction takes on a new human dimension
  • Novel experiences become commonplace because your curiosity frequently leads you down new and unexpected paths
  • Other people find your curiosity refreshing and inspiring
  • You easily get inspired by new concepts and practices

An example:

A nurse works in public health and is relatively happy with what she does; however, she feels a slight tug of discontent and boredom. So, rather than wallow in the familiar, she attends lectures and webinars, digs deep into LinkedIn, talks to interesting people doing fascinating things, and learns about new concepts and practices in public health that are being implemented through innovative programs in other countries.

Through contacts and deep networking, she connects with someone doing community development work in Haiti that interests her greatly. She takes it upon herself to spend a month in Haiti learning from her new friends and colleagues, and returns to the U.S. with a clear vision of what she needs to do to make herself attractive to organizations working in her new area of interest. She hires a career coach and begins a new adventure in self- discovery and professional development.

Passion and Purpose Fuel Curiosity, and Vice Versa

Just as the example shows someone’s curiosity leading them down a new road of professional passion and adventurous learning, passion itself can be the fuel for curiosity.

If our fictional public health nurse was already fascinated with, for example, how grass-roots movements in developing countries help to fuel innovative recovery from the impact of natural disasters, that passion would be the driving force behind the engine of her curiosity. Thus, her curious mind would seek out information, people, knowledge, skills, and experiences that would inform and educate her on the opportunities available to get involved at a deep level in such noble work.

Whether your interest is in ICU, emergency nursing, research, or working in war zones, it is both your curiosity and your passion that are the fuels of forward movement in your career.

If you feel a lack of passion and curiosity in relation to your life or career, I believe that developing and nurturing both is paramount to moving in a positive direction. Searching for jobs or graduate nursing programs out of boredom won’t result in much, but this type of desperate grasping can indeed end up in you investing time, money, and resources into a course of action that you’re not wholly wed to or inspired by.

When you feel a lack of passion and curiosity, you need to feed it in whatever ways will move the needle for you. This may include:

  • Reading books that may serve to inspire your search for getting more out of life and work
  • Listening to podcasts that can open your mind to new ideas
  • Requesting informational interviews with inspiring, interesting people
  • Traveling
  • Delving into creative pursuits that can relax and open your mind to new possibilities by engaging the right side of your brain
  • Using nature, hanging out with animals and children, spending time with the elderly as sources of inspiration and new ways of seeing the world
  • Volunteering

Purpose is about your work having meaning, doing something you believe in, and feeling that your nursing career is about more than just getting the job done and bringing home the bacon.

The lifelong pursuit of new possibilities can be fueled by curiosity, purpose, and passion. Use these three crucial energies as the engines of your personal and professional development.

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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!

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

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

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century” and “Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters.”

He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for Nurse.org, Nurse.com, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, American Sentinel University, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.

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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