Freedom to Be Your Best Nurse

by | Oct 16, 2015 | 13 comments

Nursing can be tough work. We’ve got teams to ‘play’ with, supervisors to report to and organizations to align with. It can seem as though the policies are consistently in a state of flux and the rules keep coming at us. I know I have felt a sense of exasperation and helplessness at times as I navigate my nursing role.

Freedom to Be Your Best Nurse: Heart of Nursing Practice #nursingfromwithinTo top it all off, there can be so much movement in our healthcare environments of today, that we feel out of control.

It’s hard to stay positive and upbeat amidst all of this change. It can be difficult to feel engaged in our work, when we’re unsure it’s really meaningful. We start to feel stressed out, burned out and even dissatisfied with our nursing careers. And then what happens?

Well, we may start calling out. Or we show up, but we’re not fully present. We feel cynical and speak with a negative tone. We begin to contribute to the toxic work environment everyone around us is referring to.

I can write all this with a strong sense of confidence. Because I have lived it. And I continue to observe it on a daily basis. I receive emails weekly from nurses who are telling me that they are fed up with nursing. I get mentions in my Twitter feed, asking me how they can change their careers. And guess what? My response may not be the one these beat down, burned out nurses were looking for.

Because I don’t believe that the answer lies in leaving the profession. I really don’t.

The answer is within. 

And so what do I tell these stressed out nurse professionals? What do I attempt to instill in my colleagues on and offline? That there’s hope. And that once you make the choice to change, you can do it with some amount of ease.

You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars in some new degree. You don’t have to waste a lot of time in a course you hate. You may not even need outside help at all.. though support can always make things easier.

It’s about tapping to what’s inside that is going to change your external nursing environment. It’s about looking within to enjoy your nursing career.

So, let me ask you some questions. I encourage you to take out a paper and pencil (or open a word processing program on your device), and really reflect on these with some energy and attention. Especially if you’re finding this blog as a burned out, unhappy nurse looking for a career change. Here we go…

  • Why did you go into nursing in the first place? What made you go into nursing?
  • What did you want to feel as a nurse? What did you expect to do?
  • Where are you now? With respect to your nursing career, what is going well? What is going less than that?
  • What do you appreciate about your role? What do you enjoy?
  • What makes you a unique human being? What traits, skills and personality qualities are ‘just yours’?
  • How are you special? What have you accomplished or overcome? What can you brag about?
  • Where would you like to be? With respect to your career, what do you want to be doing?
  • What’s one step (just one) that you can take this week to find greater joy in your nursing career?

I’d love to hear from you. What did you realize from responding to the list above? How do you think you might go within to more fully enjoy your nursing career? Share a comment below and thanks for reading!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within‘, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.


  1. maureenpowers

    You are right on in this blog about the solution to dis-sadisfaction is to go within. I have found this to be true for myself, when I was younger I did what you suggest here and it worked for me.

    • Elizabeth

      Awesome to hear that it worked for you, Maureen. That is surely helpful for our readers to know. Thanks for sharing!

  2. exceptionalnurse

    You are spot on again Elizabeth!
    I would also like to add nursing educators to this discussion.
    Burned out?
    Go within… take Elizabeth’s advice…and ask, “why did you go into nursing education in the first place”?

    • Elizabeth

      Great addition, Donna. And thanks for the feedback. I am glad you found the post so useful.

  3. Dr Rachel Silva, DNP

    Your blog continues to inspire me with the broad range of topics you write about to encourage us in our profession. Reflecting over what led us to choose nursing, our professional expectations, as well as our unique abilities and accomplishments keeps us focused on the “big picture,” rather than the short-term disappointments in life. You offer excellent questions to lead us towards both professional and personal satisfaction in life.

    • Elizabeth

      You’re so right, Dr. Rachel. Often we get distracted by the little things that keep us down. When we keep coming back to our big vision why… that is where the true magic happens. Thanks for your comments and positive feedback!

  4. Big Red Carpet Nurse

    Thanks for this advice: we so often here about what to do or seek, but it’s nice to see more about how!

    • Elizabeth

      Great point, Greg. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. And for the kind feedback.

  5. sunnysandra16

    This is a very timely blog post for the Autumn season. In TCM , Autumn is a time to reflect on what you value and why and to release what no longer serves you. The questions you posted are key for us nurses to reflect on. Once we know these answers, what do we need to change or who do we need to become to have it?

    THANK YOU for this post!

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Cassandra,

      You are so welcome. It’s great to hear that this post resonates with you and fits in with the autumn season. It would make sense. I am going to go through this self-reflection myself, as since hearing from you about the timeliness of this exercise, I feel it is fitting. Thanks!

  6. Kelly Payne

    Great Questions to ask Elizabeth. I fell in love with nursing when I realized how many different options I have in the same field. I am continually learning and seeking out new opportunities within our profession. I agree with you and feel that a nurse does not need to leave the profession, but simply find a new angle to approach!

  7. Erica MacDonald RN (@Writer_EricaMac)

    Great article! You are so right… you can only change yourself, so the answer does lie within. Sometimes when you work in a toxic environment, the answer lies within to find a non-toxic environment to work in. You often can’t change others.

    Change is so hard for most people. We like what is comfortable. But it can be necessary. However, there are so many options in nursing to choose from. Leave the negativity behind.

    • Elizabeth

      Change certainly is scary and can be very uncomfortable. That’s why it’s best to get extremely clear on our own desires first, before expecting any shifts to happen. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to read and comment, Erica.



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