The “Shoulds” and “Coulds” of Your Nursing Career, The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 97

In the nursing world, we are told what we “should” do with our careers much more often than what we “could” do. While the difference can seem subtle, it is actually something that can have a serious impact on the career path we choose and the subsequent satisfaction that we derive from our choices. Do you function on “shoulds” or “coulds” in your nursing career?

Should, could, and wouldOn February 27th, 2017, my blog post discussed how other people try to nail us down by telling us why we should make a particular choice. They “should” all over us, and it can be confusing and discouraging. I wrote:

For some reason, everyone else can appear to have an opinion about what you’re supposed to do next; maybe they feel that the television shows they watched taught them enough about what nurses do that they can advise you on your career. Or perhaps they are nurses themselves, and they simply couldn’t bear it if you did something outside the traditional box; it would make them uncomfortable.

The fact is, you need to conduct your professional journey according to your own desires and aspirations, and your plan may be completely contrary to the vision that others hold for you. Be that as it may, it’s not your job to please others; it’s your job to create the career that you want.

This pressure from others about what we ought to do as nurses can squelch our creativity and hold us back from hearing our own inner voice. So, you need to focus on your “coulds” — the things that fill you with wonder, awe, and a sense of potential.

In that blog post, I shared about a favorite poet and writer:

The writer Mary Oliver once said, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” We can ask a similar question about your nursing career.

So, given your druthers, what would you do? What kind of nurse would you be? What types of patients would you serve? Would you even serve patients at all? You can start a business, be a freelance nurse writer, launch a podcast, become a researcher, do private duty nursing, leave the profession to open a wine bar – there is no end to what you might do with your wild and precious career.

Nurses, consider the possibilities, which are endless; reject those who “should” all over you, and welcome those who fill your mind and heart with “coulds”. You have some potentially fruitful and productive years ahead of you, and your runway is of your own making; what will you make of this golden opportunity? 

Nurses, listen to this episode and dig deep into what you could do, what you would do, and not what others say you should do. Pay heed to that still, small voice inside; it’s there — just listen.


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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 has written for,, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.

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.

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