On September 17th, 2018, I published a blog post entitled, “Nurse, Throw Your Hat Over the Wall“. I wrote that post to encourage nurses to take risks and develop themselves personally and professionally. Are you a nurse who needs to do the same?

Here are excerpts from the original post:

In your nursing career, have you ever wanted to get something done but never had the gumption to make the commitment and just do it? Well, there’s an old Irish proverb that says, “When you come upon a wall, throw your hat over it and then go and get your hat.”

In the context of your nursing career, I like to think of this saying in terms of you putting some skin in the game and making a commitment to do what needs to be done, no matter what obstacles may appear to be in your way. What are you avoiding? What are you waiting for? Is there a deep end you just need to dive into?

Many of us have a history of playing it safe in our lives in one way or another. Maybe you went to college right out of high school because it was what you were expected to do, even though it went against every fiber of your being to do so. (This is my story, for sure.) Or maybe you’re too scared to pursue a nursing certification because you can’t make up your mind whether it’s a good idea or not.

Your deep end may be graduate school (also my story!), a certification, starting your own business (this used to be my story), applying for a promotion, or asking for a raise. You may be scared to death of having your first patient on a vent, or maybe it’s your first shift as charge nurse and you feel like a total impostor and phony. Whatever it may be, sometimes the best recourse is to take a deep breath, plug your nose, and jump.

In your nursing career, the last thing you need is to make yourself invisible. You may feel the need to do so, but in the big picture, you want to be seen, heard, valued, and understood — this takes a willingness to demonstrate your passions, your strengths, and your failings and foibles.

Being vulnerable certainly opens you up to criticism, but staying small doesn’t necessarily serve your goals and what you’re wanting out of your career. Do the people who keep themselves small get recommended for a promotion? Are people who hide their light away seen as natural leaders? Is the person sitting in the corner not voicing their opinion going to be asked for their thoughts? In all of these scenarios, the answer is by and large no — those who hide away will stay hidden until they step out of the shadows and own who they are.

At this point, I want you to ask yourself some questions:

  • Is there is a wall I failed to throw my hat over?
  • Have I shrunk from an opportunity and played it safe when I could have taken a risk?
  • Where in my nursing career do I keep my light hidden away?
  • Am I not allowing certain aspects of my professional self to be seen?
  • Where and how do I need to step out of the shadows?

Depending on your answers, you may have some major personal work to do in terms of your self-confidence as a professional, or maybe you’ve realized that you already play full on in your career and you’re going for it in a really big way.

Here’s something to do:

  • Decide where you are in terms of owning and maturing into your professionalism and expertise
  • Choose an area where you’ve been keeping your light hidden and haven’t been challenging yourself
  • Create a conscious plan to bring more of that hidden part of yourself into the light of day
  • Find a friend, colleague, or family member who can act as your accountability buddy regarding your goal(s)
  • Check in on a regular basis about how you’re doing

Playing full on is a choice and it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, especially if you’ve been keeping things hidden away in the shadows. Be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself. Set goals that are measurable, realistic, relevant, and time-dependent. Assess your progress regularly. Rinse and repeat.

When you throw your hat over the wall, you’re taking a calculated risk. Take the risks that make sense for you, your career, and the life you want to lead. You’ll know when you’re on the mark and stepping up to the plate in profound and important ways.


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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.