Nurse Iconoclasts And Deviating From The Norm, The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 82

Here on episode 82 of The Nurse Keith Show, we expand upon the notion of owning your own genius as a nursing professional that was discussed on episode 81. This is about being a nurse iconoclast, breaking the mold, going against the grain, coloring outside the lines, and exhibiting what I’m calling

positive deviance from the nursing norm.

Dare to be differentIn a blog post published on November 7th, 2016, I discussed nurse iconoclasts, and the famous quote by Oscar Wilde:

Be yourself everyone else is already takenYou see, Oscar had it right; you have to be yourself, and if you want to be yourself as a nurse, you sometimes have to go against the grain and strike out on your own iconoclastic path. I wrote the following in the aforementioned blog post:

An iconoclast can be defined as a person who goes against the grain, rebels against convention, or otherwise subverts the dominant paradigm in the interest of marching to his or her own drummer. Picasso was assuredly an iconoclast, and there are plenty more to choose from in the arts, sciences, and other disciplines.

When I graduated from nursing school in 1996, I announced to my classmates and professors that I was not going to pursue a Med/Surg position; rather, I was choosing to sink my teeth into nursing at an inner city community health center providing comprehensive care to underserved populations. I was told that not seeking an entry-level nursing position in the hospital was professional suicide, and that my career would be doomed from the start. Needless to say, I rejected all such opinions, took the position in the health center, and created a career trajectory that was completely removed from acute care and the world of hospitals. That was an iconoclastic career move, and I’ve never looked back during the last two decades.

We nurses have been pigeonholed and held back in so many ways over the years. As a traditionally female profession, nurses have been subjugated largely due to their ranks being filled by women. The medical patriarchy has done its concerted best to keep nurses down, and even now the American Medical Association and physician lobbying groups are doing their best to push back against advanced practice nurses’ expanded scopes of practice and autonomy.

Meanwhile, new nurses are told that they must work in Med/Surg in order to launch their careers, even though the jobs they’re told they absolutely need right out of school aren’t even there anymore.

And when it comes to nurses who work in non-hospital roles such as school nursing, nurse entrepreneurship, or home health, they are looked down upon by other nurses as somehow less valid or important; this is internalized oppression being imposed on certain nurses by other nurses. Here’s more from that blog post:

You may have a very distinctive and out-of-the-box vision for your nursing career; whether you’re just out of school, or you’re preparing for a mid-career shift or retirement, you may indeed make a choice that throws your colleagues for a loop and makes them question your sanity.

Oscar Wilde would have a field day convincing you about your worth and the value of being yourself; sadly, he’s not around, so unless you want to get out the Ouija Board, you might as well just take his advice to heart and cajole yourself to follow your bliss without Mr. Wilde to read you the riot act. 

Nurse entrepreneurs can feel like they’re out on a limb starting businesses when their friends are in the ICU or ER. New nurses can feel deep self-doubt when they choose to not take the tried and true route of Med/Surg (even when there are no Med/Surg jobs to be had). And a mid-career nurse ready for a major change may also receive feedback that she’s throwing it all away for a pipe dream when she should just be staying where she is instead.

Iconoclasts and those of us who write our own career scripts must develop thick skins, powerful bullshit detectors, and the ability to forge ahead based on our own innate wisdom and inner compass. Sure, we may sometimes fall on our faces or fail miserably, but staying in a silo just because everyone else says you should isn’t necessarily the life many of us want to lead.

Making a choice to change lanes or abandon the road altogether isn’t easy, and you’ll suffer some slings and arrows for doing so. But you know, Oscar Wilde and Pablo Picasso did it, and so can you. So be yourself, nurses; everyone else is indeed taken.

Stepping Out and Up

On episode 77 of The Nurse Keith Show, I discussed the importance of learning to talk about yourself positively, tooting your own horn, and developing the ego strength to wax poetic about your awesomeness. The crucial aspects of these skills cannot be overstated for nurses of all stripes.

On episode 66, I cajoled nurses to say yes to social media, networking, and conscious professional development.

Meanwhile, the specter of Nurse Self-Limiting Syndrome (NSLS) reared its ugly head on episode 54, and I offered a treatment plan for overcoming low nurse self-esteem, chronic negativity, and stunted career growth.

Nurses, if we can accept our own worth and value, we can begin to believe that our own unique career path has merit.


The episode of the Nurse Keith Show sponsored by StaffGarden, episode of The Nurse Keith Show is brought to you by my friends at StaffGarden, a unique digital healthcare company allowing nurses to create a private online ePortfolio that StaffGarden shares with high-quality employers (with your permission, of course) in order to connect you with the best facilities and positions.

StaffGarden partners with fantastic employers seeking the best candidates in the nursing profession; through powerful partnerships with the recruiters and talent acquisition professionals employed by these healthcare leaders, they deliver your ePortfolio directly to the people who are looking for nurses just like you.

Having a StaffGarden ePortfolio and landing a job with a partnering employer costs you nothing. However, your ePortfolio will get you noticed for positions that you would likely not have access to through traditional ads or job postings.

As a nurse, partnering with StaffGarden adds depth and breadth to your job search process, as well as your exposure to some of the most progressive healthcare employers in the country. Allow SG to work for you and connect you with some of the greatest job opportunities in 21st-century healthcare.


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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 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 was also a 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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