Finding the Center of Your Nurse Identity, The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 86

On November 28th, 2016, just after the American celebration of Thanksgiving, I published a blog post titled, “Finding Your Center as a Nurse…and as a Human Being.” The central notion of that post is that the center of your nurseness—your professional identity—will  naturally shift as you mature as a nurse and move deeper into your career. Thus, your center is in fact a moving target. So, my friends…..

how do you find the center of your nursing career?

finding your center as a nurse

A Moving Target

Here’s what I wrote in that post about your center being a moving target:

The center of your nursing career—the place at which you find your deepest satisfaction and soul work—is indeed a moving target. When you first graduate from nursing school, your satisfaction may come from performing your first catheterization or central line dressing change; the novice nurse derives great satisfaction from mastering skills and knowledge, and that is as it should be.

As you move deeper into your career, skills-based learning may feel less satisfying in some ways, depending on your area of practice and specialization. If you approach your clinical work with sincere curiosity and interest, amassing new skills and knowledge may be enough for you, and there may also be times when some new types of experience are called for in order to hold your interest.

Being a staff nurse may work for a while, but you may feel the need to serve as Charge, or move into management, administration, research, education, or entrepreneurship. If your body begins to suffer from the rigors of floor nursing, a desk job may seem very attractive.

The moving target of your career and professional (and personal) happiness is such as it is by necessity; careers do not naturally stagnate, although some of us fall into professional stagnation by dint of boredom, ennui, intellectual laziness, or simply an attachment to what’s most comfortable coupled with (reasonable or unreasonable) fear of the unknown.

Zeroing In as a Lifelong Process

The next concept I introduced in that post was that of zeroing in. In terms of what lies at the center of your motivations, desires, and mission as a nurse, this is something that needs consistent attention and massaging.

Zeroing in on what makes you tick is an important and ongoing process. In the first years of your nursing career, certain types of experiences will make you happy and keep you fulfilled; as both your professional and personal lives morph over time, your needs as a healthcare professional will also change.

If you get married, have children, suffer personal loss, or live with physical, psychiatric, emotional, or spiritual challenges, your needs vis-a-vis your career will change. As a nursing mother, you may choose to work one weekend a month while you raise your children; if your parent is in hospice, you may need to alter your workstyle to fit your lifestyle. And if you go back to school or otherwise change your life, work must adapt apace.

You must always be assessing how you are (or are not) zeroing in on what you want and what will make you happy, both personally and professionally. Last year, simply showing up for your shifts and not harming any patients in the course of your work might have seemed like enough; however, at this time, you may feel the need for new challenges, opportunities for growth, and the means to develop as a person.

Zeroing in is not a one-time event; it’s a lifelong process.

Your Shifting Center

Finally, that center or fulcrum of who you are is going to continue to morph, and the astute, self-aware nursing professional keeps her finger on the pulse of what she really wants and what makes her put her feet on the floor every morning. Your evolving life can and should impact your career choices, and it’s when we lack congruence between our workstyle and lifestyle that we get into trouble.

You find your center as a nurse and as a human being by understanding yourself, your dreams, your motivations, your fears, and your desires. What makes you tick? What makes life and work feel meaningful? What gets you out of bed every morning, and what gets you through the day?

Your emotional and spiritual center at 22 years of age will likely be wildly different than when you’re 52; and that 52-year-old self will naturally have different needs than your 82-year-old self. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological model that consistently holds water; understand where you are on that hierarchy, and feed the part of yourself that’s hungry.

Find the center of your life and you’ll likely find the center of your career. Find the center of your desires and motivations, and you’ll make choices that are meaningful and life-enhancing. Understand the needs that are making themselves known in your heart, mind, and soul, and you’ll have a notion of what to do and where to go next. Rather than make choices based on what others are telling you is best, make them based on what you need for your personal and professional development.

Find your center today, tomorrow, next month, and in ten years. It’s a moving target, and it’s worthy of always keeping your eye on the ball.

Seek Congruence

Professional cognitive dissonance can be generated when there is lack of congruence between who you are and what you need at home and what you do at work. As I mentioned above, we can look to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for basic guidance in this regard.

I believe that much professional unhappiness can result when our work no longer speaks to our soul and we feel there’s a disconnect between our work life and home life. If you are indeed changing as an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual being, certain types of work or career situations are no longer going to feel professionally nutritious. If you alter your physical nutrition in order to feed certain physical states or conditions (e.g.: diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease), you certainly must at times alter the nutrition given to your career.

Find your center now, later, and even later; it’s a moving target, and it deserves consistent reflection, tending, feeding and watering in the interest of your happiness.

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 previously 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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