Here on episode 60 of The Nurse Keith Show, we’re talking about


and how to overcome it in your nursing career.

Nursing can be a great profession and career path, but it can also lead to many nurses feeling disheartened and discouraged, so let’s talk turkey about career-related discouragement.

Discouraged nurse Or Encouraged nurse?

Many nurses come to me for career coaching when they feel like they’ve hit a wall; this can happen at any point in a nurse’s career, and no matter when it happens, it’s no fun.

Challenges Throughout Your Career

At the time of this recording, new graduate nurses currently face a tough job market in many regions of the United States, and probably in many other countries, as well. Jobs can be hard to come by, and new grads are met with serious conundrums, the common one being that no one wants to hire them until they have at least one year of med-surg experience, but med-surg jobs are few and far between, highly competitive, and there simply aren’t enough to go around. What’s a novice nurse to do to get his or her foot in the professional door?

Meanwhile, there are nurses who have significant experience, but had to leave the workforce in order to raise children, care for a disabled spouse, tend to elderly parents, or otherwise look after other aspects of life. There are also nurses who left the bedside and acute care, got some great non-acute experience, and now can’t find clinical work because they’ve been out of the running for a few years.

There are also mid-career and late-career nurses who need a change, feel burnt out, or perhaps are physically tired and can’t do bedside nursing anymore and need something new that’s less physically demanding.

NurseKeith and American Sentinel University

Other Discouragements

Coming up against a roadblock or speed bump in your nursing career isn’t fun; however, there are other forms of nursing career discouragement that can mess with your head and throw you off track.

These situations and challenges can include being faced with bullying and lateral violence between nurses, inefficient or downright poor management, mandatory overtime and staffing issues, harassment and bullying from non-nurses, and a plethora of other challenges that can put a nurse over the edge.

If you need information and encouragement about bullying, check out the resources offered by my friend and colleague, Dr. Renee Thompson, one of the foremost experts on nurse bullying. You can also look up my friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Strauss, another expert on harassment, bullying, Title IX issues, and workplace discrimination.

Yes, you can get discouraged, my friends, but you have to fight back with all you have.

Fight Discouragement With All You’ve Got

Nurses, when you feel discouraged in your career, you have to fight it with everything you’ve got. Discouragement can come in many guises and forms, but many types of nurse discouragement can lead to the same places: burnout, compassion fatigue, exhaustion, emotional and spiritual distress, personal crises, damaged relationships, low self-esteem, and so many other sequelae. Let’s face it, it’s not pretty when a nurse is unhappy and burnt to a crisp.

If you tune into this episode of The Nurse Keith Show and listen, I discuss the following strategies for overcoming discouragement and feelings of being disheartened:

Coaching, counseling, psychotherapy, or Employee Assistance Programs: Sometimes a professional is needed in order to help you move through a difficult life passage. Coaching can help immensely with certain issues; however, if you need to go deeper, counseling or psychotherapy may be a better choice. Some people choose to engage a coach for goal-setting and professional planning while also seeing a counselor for psychoemotional support.

Faith-based support: Seeking help from a faith leader can be just the thing for certain individuals. If you have a trusted faith leader, that level of counsel and support may do the trick in times of crisis.

Time off and time away: There comes a time when getting away seems to be the best option. Sure, there’s a notion of escapism here, but perspective can be gained when we go traveling, take a long weekend, or just hole up at home, watch movies, and go for long, thoughtful walks.

Play time and self-care: For nurses who are feeling burnt out, play time and self-care can be paramount. My friend Caroline Sanchez—also known as The Hula Hoop Girl—wrote her Master’s thesis on the practice of therapeutic hula-hooping for nurse self-care and burnout prevention and recovery. Her appearance on RNFM Radio is wonderfully inspiring. You can also check out my RNFM Radio co-host Elizabeth Scala for her excellent resources on fighting burnout and upping your self-care game.

Bring out your inner marketing and networking guerilla: If you’re not feeling burnt out and are on top of your self-care game, sometimes you just need a shot in the arm to take your self-marketing and networking to the next level, and that’s where The Nurse Keith Show comes in. Here are some helpful and inspiring previous episodes that I referenced in the course of this episode, although there are many more to check out and enjoy. If you’re not able to subscribe on iTunes, this link will give you easy access to every episode.

Going back to school or seeking certifications and more training:
There comes a time in your professional growth and trajectory as a nurse when going back to school is the avenue that makes most sense for moving forward. It used to be said that when the economy is down, it’s a great time to be in school; that may or may not be true for everyone, but it can be good advice for some.

If you’re an RN feeling like doors are slamming in your face, then a BSN or MSN may what you need to elevate your marketability. Or if you want to break into a particular specialty area of practice, there may be a certification or training that you need to get under your proverbial belt in order to apply for those positions.

If you decide on this route, don’t just go with intuition; talk to people who know the ins and outs, and ask questions that will help you make an informed decision about laying down money, blood, sweat, tears, and time into further education.


My friend Elizabeth Scala likes to talk about mindset, because it’s so important to our well-being. Like I said in episode 48, a victim mentality doesn’t get us anywhere, and it can leave us feeling stuck and helpless. Where are you feeling stuck? Are you feeling victimized by your situation? If you’re being victimized by a particular person—a bully—that’s another story and you need to protect yourself, document the bully’s behavior, and get him or her ousted; contact Renee Thompson for strategies for doing just that.

Discouragement is normal, and we can all sometimes feel disheartened by our profession and the vicissitudes of healthcare; thus, we have to make sure we can fight back against discouragement with smart tools, resources, and the mindset that will help us change the channel on our distress.

Don’t go it alone, nurses; if you need help, let me know. Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and those you trust. Rather than isolate, surround yourself with positive people, change your circumstances, and create a career that’s about encouragement, heartful living, and feeling happy and empowered.


NurseKeith and American Sentinel UniversityThis episode of The Nurse Keith Show is sponsored by the good folks at American Sentinel University. As a fully accredited online university, American Sentinel offers a variety of courses related to healthcare and nursing, including RN to BSN, and five MSN programs: Informatics, Case Management, Nursing Education, Nursing Management, and Infection Prevention and Control. They offer an RN to BSN/MSN, a program, as well as two tracks for those wishing to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. American Sentinel also offers a certificate in Prevention and Control that assists clinicians in acquiring the knowledge they need to develop best practices for infection prevention and control. Please visit for more information.


The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by Tim Hallowell of The; 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!

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCKeith 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 News 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. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.

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