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What Am I Getting Into?


By Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

Have you ever, in a quiet moment to yourself, thought: “What the heck am I getting myself into!?” Truth? We all have.

Nursing is a tough field. Sure, it can be overwhelmingly rewarding and even exhilarating at times … but days will come when you wonder, “Did I make the right choice?”

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In these situations, you need to revisit why you become a nurse or chose nursing school in the first place.

  • Was it a family member who encouraged you down this path?
  • Did you have a life-changing experience that propelled you toward healthcare?
  • Were there specific classes or topics in school that pointed you in this direction?

Life does not just happen to us. Experiences occur that gently nudge us in one direction or another. It’s important to keep in mind the joy of nursing, even as the work days become difficult.

Here is a 3-step process you can try to get back to the joy of nursing practice.

Related resource: Self-Care as a Student

1. List your “do nots.”

Sure, there are things in nursing that we do not like. Think about your current situation, either school- or work-related. What is it that you do not enjoy?

Write down the tasks you do not like. Maybe list out the emotions that are unpleasant to feel. Is there a type of coworker or student that you avoid interacting with? This list is to get out everything you do not want to feel, experience, be, or have to do in nursing.

Now, one caveat. You need to write down things as they relate to you. For example, if there is a difficult coworker on your team, try not to list everything wrong about them as a nurse. Focus more specifically on the behaviors that you are not keen on.

We want this first list to be items that we have control over or things we can change in our own nursing practice.

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2. Take the “do not” list and turn it into “do!”

Now comes the fun part.

Look at every item on the do-not list and write down the opposite. Here is an example for you:

If I wrote, “I do not want to feel nervous running charge,” I would then change it to the exact opposite. “If I do not want to feel nervous running charge, then what I do want is to be a confident charge nurse!”

So, if I don’t want X, then what I do want is Y. It needs to be the exact opposite and the first thing that pops into your mind. Try not to censor yourself or overthink this. Your rational mind may say, “But you’re still worried … you’re not confident! This will never happen.”

Don’t let your brain run your heart.

Work through each of the “do nots” and get them to the “do wants.” Again, the first thing that comes to mind and as close to the opposite as you can.

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3. Envision and be intentional with the reasons why.

Here’s the final step. Looking at the do-want list, create intentional statements for yourself. Now here’s the trick:

In front of each statement, insert the words “I choose to …”

So, going with the example above: “If I don’t want to feel nervous as a new charge nurse, what I do want is to be a confident charge nurse. I choose to be a confident charge nurse!”

By inserting those three little words, you are allowing your brain to catch up. Gently inviting the brain to get on board makes it easier to bring new desires into reality.

You’re not done yet.

Writing this list and walking away, never doing anything with it, won’t elicit any change. Instead, you need to revisit this list from time to time. I recommend daily and even taking it a step further.

Read your list aloud while looking at yourself in the mirror. Sounds silly, right? It works!

If you wake up each morning, look into your own eyes, and say with assurance “I choose to be a confident charge nurse,” guess what? With time, it will be your reality.

Yup, nursing is hard work. And there will be shifts that make you want to scream. However, by keeping your heartfelt desires, the reasons you went into nursing in the first place, front and center, working as a nurse will become a bit more enjoyable.

We’d love to hear from you! Why did you go into nursing in the first place? What do you enjoy about the profession? How do you keep at it, even when the work is hard? Share below and thanks for reading!

About the author: Keynote speaker and bestselling author Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurses’ Week’s ‘Art of Nursing’ program, 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.

Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.