Nurses and the Art of the Humble Brag

Nurses and the Art of the Humble Brag

Talking about your gifts, accomplishments, and talents is essential for professionals who want to advance their careers, but nurses often tend towards the humble side of things, so it doesn’t always work in their favor.

While humility is a wonderful characteristic, when you want to get ahead as a healthcare professional, you need to be able to articulate what it is that makes you unique, and hiding your light under the proverbial bushel does you no good in the end.

So, to make your way in the world and grow your career, you need to understand the art of the humble brag.

It’s Not Boasting

When you’re in the market for a new job, requesting a promotion to nursing supervisor, or maybe writing a personal essay for your CRNA school application, the time for shyness and excessive humility has passed. While you may not be comfortable talking about yourself and tooting your own horn, it’s something you likely need to get accustomed to to get what you want.

Boasting gets a bad rap in our culture, and for good reason. When someone can’t stop talking about their new sports car, how much their new house cost, their fabulous summer on Mykonos, or their enormous trust fund, they’re boasting for no other reason but to make sure other people know how wonderful, wealthy, and wildly successful they are.

It’s apparent when someone is boasting for no other reason but the elevation of their ego, and this is not your strategic road to success. Instead, there’s another path to take, and it’s the art of the humble brag.

Embrace the Humble Brag  

When you want to communicate your value as a nursing professional, how do you do that? If you’d like an interviewer to understand what makes you the stellar nurse you are, how do you frame that statement? And if you want to be promoted to nurse manager of your unit, how do you make your case that you’re the best possible choice for the position?

Enter the humble brag. The humble brag is a strategy for talking about yourself in a matter-of-fact way that states the facts. It isn’t humble to the extent that you’re embarrassed to talk about your skills, knowledge, education, and expertise; instead, it’s modest enough not to sound boastful or self-aggrandizing, yet forthright enough to mean business and get your point across without ambiguity. As a colleague once described it, it’s stating a fact about yourself with all of the emotion removed. For example:

“I’m a strong nurse leader. I have a proven track record of excellent team cohesion, with a nurse retention of 80% over the last five years. We’ve created a happy, healthy team.” 

“My skills in quickly creating therapeutic rapport and trust between myself and my patients is something I’m most proud of.”

“I love working with moms and babies. I have a collection of thank you cards that grateful parents have written. I know without a doubt that I make a positive difference in their birthing experience.”

If you can say what you need to say about yourself without cringing or wanting to melt into the floor, you’re doing well. If you can verbalize what makes you so awesome simply as a fact and without shame or embarrassment, you’re on your way to humble brag success.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now it’s your turn. Consider listing 20 things you do well as a nurse and healthcare professional. What are your greatest talents? Where do your skills, knowledge, and expertise shine most readily? What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of?

Remember that when you can quantify a result or accomplishment (e.g., “nurse retention of 80% over the last five years”), numbers speak volumes. And if you can’t quantify it, then qualify it (e.g., “I know without a doubt that I make a positive difference in their birthing experience.”)

You also want to choose the content of your humble brag for your specific target audience and purpose. For a CRNA school interview, you should focus on your critical care skills and experience. Suppose it’s an interview to be on the board of a community-based non-profit that works with marginalized communities. In that case, you’ll want to discuss how you’ve successfully interfaced with or served similarly affected groups.

If you have an interview or other situation coming up where you’re going to need to talk about yourself in a positive light, this will be an excellent time to practice the art of the humble brag. It’s never too early to learn the skill of verbalizing your gifts, experience, expertise, and knowledge in a way that’s effective, forthright, unashamed, and transparent. People like confidence, so use this as an exercise in increasing your confidence in your worth.

The humble brag is a skill like any other, and with time, you can become an expert in talking about yourself positively, enthusiastically, and convincingly.