The words you speak and the thoughts you think about yourself as a nurse and the work that you do have a huge influence on your career. Are you choosing words that are empowering, positive, and indicative of your passion, expertise, and professionalism? Or are you stuck in a negative and defeatist loop?

Words matter

This episode reflects on a recent blog post that digs into this topic of words and thoughts as they pertain to your career.

Here are a few excerpts from that original post — I elucidate many of these finer points on this episode of The Nurse Keith Show.

At no matter what point you find yourself in your nursing career, the words you use are powerful. How you talk to your patients and colleagues says a lot about you, and how you talk about your career, your work, and your life says even more. And we also need to consider how you talk to yourself. Are you choosing words that are empowering, positive, and in

Let’s face it — there’s always bad stuff that can happen in healthcare. Patients die, colleagues freak out and break down, and the shit gets slung in all manner of ways. However, those bad times are the moments when it’s most crucial to keep perspective and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

When things are going south, we must try to remember that it’s not always this way, and we can turn it around. We can also remember that even the worst shifts will eventually end (like how all bleeding eventually stops).

dicative of your passion, expertise, and professionalism? Or are you stuck in a negative and defeatist loop?

We all have bad days, and we also need to be careful when we’re at risk of falling into negative language traps that paint us into corners filled with bad feelings, resentment, and negativity — all of which can contribute to burnout and compassion fatigue.

What words do you choose when it comes to your nursing career and your work as a healthcare professional? Even if things are bad, can you reframe your experience and find ways to see it in a different light?

If you have a bad day every week or two but the rest isn’t so terrible, be sure to recognize and verbalize that reality. Instead of saying or thinking, “Man, work was awful today; I hate my job,” you could say or think, “Man, what a rough day — but most of my workdays aren’t that bad. I bet tomorrow will be better.”

Catching your proclivity to complain and dismiss out of hand anything good that’s recently happened may be a sign that you’re burned out and need a break. If you can’t see any clear sky amidst the storm clouds of your nursing career, consider whether it’s you or it’s actually your work environment or colleagues at the heart of the matter.

Using the term “just” to describe anything about your nursing career is a total no-no in my book. “I’m just a nurse” doesn’t fly with me — what are you trying to say when you stick the word “just” into that sentence?

When you say you’re “just a nurse”, you’re automatically diminishing your importance and your impact as a healthcare professional. I’ve even heard someone say, “Well, I’m just a circulating nurse in the OR.” Excuse me? A circulating nurse in the OR? That’s a fantastic accomplishment and position to hold! Does a doctor ever say, “I’m just a doctor” or “I’m just a surgeon“?

Saying that you’re “just” a nurse gives us a clue that you may be hiding behind being a nurse. This can mean that you’re abdicating responsibility because other members of the team are more educated or have more initials after their name than you do. This can also be seen as a cop-out wherein you consciously choose to remain in the shadows. Nurses have historically spent plenty of time in the shadow of physicians over the centuries — why perpetuate that dynamic now with your choice of vocabulary?

For more, listen to episode 172 and read the original post!


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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCIn case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses.

From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

As of May of 2018, Keith is the host of Mastering Nursing, an interview-style podcast showcasing inspiring, forward-thinking nurse thought leaders and innovators.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at NurseKeith.com.