Nurses are invaluable members of the healthcare workforce, and when you’re proactively building a nursing career that you can fully embrace and be proud of, there are plenty of strategies and mindset hacks to consider.

One of the greatest assets you carry as a nurse is the many skills you’ve worked hard to acquire. So, if you want to boost your self-confidence and make the most of your nursing career, it’s wise to humbly take full ownership of the many things you know and the incredible skill sets that make you the outstanding nurse (and human being) you are.take-ownership-of-your-nursing-knowledge-and-skills

Knowledge is Power

It’s been said since time immemorial that knowledge is power. The things you know — including how to leverage the soft and hard skills you have under your belt — are central to what makes your nursing mind tick, and articulating what those are is crucial.

In nursing school, you studied and read like a madperson, wrote care plans (sorry to bring that up), learned to apply the nursing process (you may be sorry I brought that up), and turned your non-nurses mind into a nurse’s mind. I bet there are things your professors said that you still hear in your head, and some of those may be helpful. “If it wasn’t documented, it never happened” was one truism I heard repeatedly during my nursing education, and I never forgot it. What sticks with you?

After the crazy nursing school journey, the rubber hits the proverbial road when you start working as a nurse out in the real world. Some skills and knowledge were entirely theoretical during school, of course. But when you’re working as a nurse and solely responsible for the care of your patients, you can bet that those wheels are turning, and the smoke is coming out of your ears as the pieces fall into your mind.

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If you’re a generalist (e.g., med/surg, internal medicine, primary care), you may not delve deeply into cardiac arrhythmia, chemotherapy regimens, or other specialized areas of knowledge and practice. But you’ll need to know a little about everything since you never know what will walk through that door. A generalist may seem from the outside like a jack of all trades and master of none, but you can rest assured that these nurses know their stuff and have all sorts of knowledge that makes them amazing. 

As for nurses who specialize in diabetes, stroke, cancer, labor and delivery, trauma, critical care, or other areas of hyper clinical focus, their knowledge is going to run deep about some very specialized concepts, treatment regimens, and diseases, and that knowledge is worth more than we can say.

Knowledge is power, so acknowledging and expressing what you know is a skill in and of itself. And if you’re job-hunting, being able to write and talk freely about why you’re fantastic is part of the sales pitch that will help you land the position of your dreams.

Your Multifaceted Skills

When we think of nursing skills, we often think of so-called hard skills like venipuncture, rhythm interpretation, wound debridement, or ventilator management. We also need to remember that the 21st-century nurse has computer skills, including using EMRs and other technologies.

In the interpersonal realm, there are skills related to communication, including emotional and relational intelligence, counseling, and active listening. We can also point to patient and family education or the education and training of other nurses (e.g., precepting or mentoring).

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Meanwhile, we can’t forget all-important leadership skills, whether as a charge nurse, a director of nursing, or a chief nursing officer. Leadership can also be a skill we naturally demonstrate on the job, even if we don’t have a title beyond “staff nurse.”

You might also have skills in medical writing, grant writing, research, sales, case management, or other areas where you find yourself. Many nurses do important non-clinical work, and their knowledge and skills are equally valuable.

The list of skills and knowledge that a nurse’s mind holds is like an ever-expanding encyclopedia.

The Humble Brag

Whether you’re gunning for a promotion, interviewing for an awesome job, applying for a grant or fellowship, or being interviewed on a nursing podcast, your confidence comes from your ability to own what you know and what you can do, as well as the overall value of your “nurseness.”

If you’re feeling glum about your nursing career, pull out a sheet of paper and try to list every piece of helpful nursing and medical knowledge you have in your head. Chances are you’d need to fill page after page with every tidbit of knowledge you can claim as your own. And if you also included a list of your many skills, you’ll likely fill an entire notebook.

You can proclaim your value, assertively list your knowledge and skills, and still live and work in a place of humility. Being humble doesn’t mean you can’t take ownership of what makes you who you are. It means you don’t have to boast about it or lord it over others. The “humble brag” will serve you just fine: state it as a fact without emotion, and you can get your point across without fuss.

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Rejoice in your nurse’s mind and everything it holds, and enjoy the clear knowledge of the value of your numerous skills. You’re a valuable member of the healthcare community, and owning your worth is a powerful place to be.

Keith Carlson
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