For Nurses, “Just” is a Four-Letter Word

For Nurses, “Just” is a Four-Letter Word

If you’re a nurse, when was the last time you said, “Oh, I’m just a nurse” or “I’m not really an expert–I’m just a nurse”? If you stop to think about it, what are you really saying when you deny your expertise? Words are powerful, and the words we use to describe ourselves can have far-reaching effects — for others and within our own psyches.

For several years, I’ve used my soapbox to cajole nurses into embracing their nurse identity and their individual and collective value as skilled clinicians.

Like I’ve said before, nurses have been voted the most trusted professionals in the U.S. every year for a good reason. That’s because, whether we feel like experts or not, the general public views us as honest and knowledgeable professionals with whom they trust their lives–and the lives of their loved ones.

Sadly, many nurses don’t feel like experts, and the common use of the above-mentioned phrase demonstrates for us the fact that nurses suffer from collective low self-esteem.

While some nurses are more expert than others (or more educated, experienced, or specialized in their practice), every nurse is an expert in some way, shape, or form. Having survived nursing school, learned how to be a nurse, developed specialized assessment skills, and been issued a license to practice, you deserve to call yourself an expert.

Face it, you’re a nurse, and you’re an expert when it comes to being a nurse. And in the eyes of the general public, you’re part of a special breed they see as angels, saints, or some other superlative creature.

Of course, your nursing career is a creature that will only continue to grow and evolve, which is a wonderful thing. Nurses are required to participate in continuing education to maintain and renew their licenses. Still, many nurses also seek out education and specialization because they’re professionals who always want to learn something new, increasing their knowledge, skill, and expertise–and that’s a beautiful thing.

When I coach nurses, I instill in my clients the undeniable fact that they are experts. However, I also demand that they never again say, “I’m just a nurse.” Using that small “four-letter word” –just — is an affront to who you are and what you do. In this context, “just” is a diminishing term, a word whose purpose is to relieve you of authority, intelligence, and undeniable importance.

You’re a nurse, and nurses can be described as the lifeblood and the backbone of the entire healthcare industry. Take away nurses, and the system as a whole would cease to function.

We’re not simple handmaidens to the all-knowing physicians (like it was in the bad old days). Instead, we’re skilled in the art and science of nursing, and this art/science is made more powerful by decades of research, practice, theory, skill-building, and knowledge accumulation.

You are a nurse. Period. And you deserve to erase that one particular four-letter word from your nursing vocabulary.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column. 

Apply now to get featured on!

Apply now to get featured on!

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  • Actively certified as an Adult Gerontology Primary Care or Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Working clinically in this area of certification
  • Interested in helping future nurses understand what life is like after the exam

Fill out our form by Tuesday, November 27th for your chance at this opportunity. Selected candidates will participate in a 30-minute interview which will be featured along with a photo on our new website. You’ll also receive a $25 Amazon gift card for participating. Join us in our mission to make nursing certification simple!


Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs): The Unsung Heroes

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs): The Unsung Heroes

Undoubtedly, the media and the public praise the nursing profession and its vital role in healthcare.  For instance, heart-warming commercials produced by Johnson & Johnson illustrated the genuine spirit of compassionate nursing care. Notably, their ad featuring a male nurse is extraordinary. As a nurse and viewer, his warmth towards the young child genuinely moved me. In my opinion, that commercial transfixed most people’s minds and hearts. For those readers that have not seen the video, I have provided it for your viewing pleasure. Click on the video below.


Without question, that commercial solidified the nurse (RN/LPN) as America’s sweetheart. However, the nursing community does not consist of just nurses (RNs/LPNs). Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are an integral part of the nursing community, but they are rarely acknowledged. CNAs are equally compassionate to patients like their nursing colleagues. Although these leaders do not administer medications, they are irreplaceable members of the nursing team. Without CNAs, patient care would be virtually impossible. These individuals are waiting in the wings and are always there to provide a helping hand. As a nurse, I worked side by side with remarkable CNAs like Pamela Davis, Tela Curry, and Ms. Janice.

These women demonstrated unwavering compassion that equaled or surpassed other nurses that worked on the floor. As a young nurse, they provided me a helping hand during “Harry” situations. For instance, Pamela, Tela, and I worked the weekend night shift, and it seemed as if every night was a full moon. Frequently, our unit would be slammed with new admits. So, Pamela and Tela would prep the rooms once the floor was alerted to a patient’s upcoming arrival. To some readers, that task may seem small, but their initiative afforded me time to complete other tasks. Stopping mid-procedure to set-up a room is time-consuming. Subsequently, on the days that I worked with Ms. Janice, she printed our patient’s lab requisitions and stocked the lab cart, which kept us ahead of the game. Then, we divided labs to lessen each other’s load of required responsibilities. Without these remarkable women, I would have surely struggled. When the nurse and CNA work as a team, they can effortlessly tackle overwhelming assignments.

As nurses, we must recognize the service of our vital but unrecognized teammate. We must highlight in the media and the community that their service is essential. So nurses and nursing students, on your next shift thank the CNAs for all of their hard work. These unsung heroes are not acknowledged enough. CNAs are the third beam that keeps the nursing community standing strong.


Thanks for reading this post! Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Communication is Key: The Importance of Effective Hand-off Reporting

Communication is Key: The Importance of Effective Hand-off Reporting

Communication breakdown is the leading cause of medical errors such as gaps in health care, incomplete or missing information, and medication errors. Most importantly, communication supports the foundation of patient care. So, hand-off reporting during shift change is a critical process that is crucial in protecting a patient’s safety. Throughout the hand-off report, it is vital to provide accurate, up-to-date, and pertinent information to the oncoming nurse. Not only are nurses transferring responsibility, but we are also shepherding and ensuring a safe passage.


Often, shift change is a chaotic period. The phone is ringing. Attendings and a cluster of residents are rounding and subsequently adding twenty new orders that must be implemented before 9 a.m. Eager nursing students are searching for their assigned preceptor, and I discover that the night shift nurse that I am receiving report from is exhausted. She expresses that she had a hard shift and desires to leave the unit before her sanity and patience is tested. So, she provides a brief, unfocused hand-off report and offers no opportunity for questions and irritation ensue at the meager utterance of a syllable or my inquisitive glance. As a result, I am given shattered fragments of the last 12 hours. Yet, I know that I am accountable and responsible for safe, quality, and efficient patient care. Because of this encounter, I have implemented and developed a standardized process throughout my hand-off report.


How you feel after a terrible hand-off report.

How you feel after receiving a terrible hand-off report.


My approach…

My preceptor drilled the importance of this task. Moreover, she expressed that this event is vital because it directs the care of my patient, and it is essential that I provide a relevant, timely, and clear account.

The process:

  • Patient Overview. I give a brief narrative of the shift by providing a broad picture. For instance, I mention critical facts.
  • Assessment.  The first segment includes the patient’s name, age, gender, allergies, code status, code word, admission history, IV access, and medical history. The second part includes the neurological, cardio, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, skin/ wounds, and musculoskeletal exam. Also, I state critical labs and the most recent vital signs.
  • Safety Concerns. I note the patient’s environment and the potential risks that may lead to patient harm (i.e., fall risks).
  • Plan of Care. At this point, I share upcoming procedures, patient education, and actionable plans.
  • Questioning. I provide the opportunity for questions to ensure communication is clear.

In the end, hand-off reporting is significant. It is our responsibility to ensure that pertinent information is reviewed. All things considered, we are obligated to deliver safe and efficient care.

I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences. What’s your method for hand-off reporting? I can’t wait to read and learn from your experiences!

Nursing Tip of the Day: Conquer the ECG Rhythm Strip

Nursing Tip of the Day: Conquer the ECG Rhythm Strip

Hi, everyone! Today’s discussion focuses on recognizing common ECG rhythms. To some readers, this topic brings to mind painful memories. Certainly, I can relate to those feelings. Mastering the skill of reading an ECG strip is analogous to fluently speaking a foreign language in approximately two weeks. It is challenging, but it can be accomplished.