Checking the Vital Signs of Your Nursing Career


Published: 19 August 2020

At any point during the course of your professional life as a nurse, it’s important to make sure you’re still on track and that the health of your career is stable, solid and perhaps even improving.

So, what are the vital signs of your nursing career? And if you find that they’re not looking good, what inspired actions can you take in order to turn things around?

Take Your Temperature

The temperature of your career relates to whether you’re doing what you truly want to be doing. If you take your professional temperature, are you hot under the collar, angry and feeling like you’re boiling over with resentment and rage? Or, conversely, is your career so lifeless and deadening that it feels as if your professional calling as a nurse is permanently on ice?

Think back to when you first entered nursing school. If you felt in your heart that being a nurse and healthcare professional was your holy grail of future achievement, you may have felt on fire to get through school, become licensed, land a job and begin changing the world one patient at a time.

How have things changed? Has your fire gone out? Do you no longer feel the heat of ambition and a future brimming with possibility? And if your fire is indeed extinguished, what would it take to set it alight again?

Is There a Pulse and BP?

A lifeless nursing career can feel like the corpse of the life you once hoped for, a shell of broken dreams. If your career is listless and pulseless, there’s simply no blood rushing through the veins of your identity as a nurse and you can feel as if you’re just going through the motions.

You’ve probably witnessed nurses experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue or the effects of secondary trauma. If their nursing career had a face, it would be pale and devoid of color, with no signs of life beneath the surface. Is this the kind of nurse you want to be, or are you willing to do what it takes to not be a dead nurse walking?

nurse taking own pulse

Are You Still Breathing?

Oxygenated blood is what keeps the cells of your body alive and performing their many vital functions. The same goes for your career.

If your brain cells lack oxygen, a few deep breaths will be triggered by your cerebral respiratory center in order to bring that oxygen where it’s needed most. And when you’re low on oxygen, you know how it can cloud your vision, dull your mind and make even the most mundane task or decision infinitely more challenging.

When your career draws a deep breath, it emboldens and energises you, bringing you a sense of renewal and gratification of a job well done. No matter where the breath of life comes from, it can revive even the most lethargic nursing career when the gains therein are thoughtfully applied and leveraged for your professional satisfaction and personal contentment.

Bring Your Career Back to Life

If your career is on life support and barely breathing, it’s time to take action. How can you resuscitate a nursing career and bring it back to the land of the living? There are many strategies, including but not limited to:

  • Pursuing further education;
  • Becoming certified in an area of clinical interest;
  • Networking with colleagues;
  • Turning to podcasts, blogs and articles for inspiration;
  • Focusing on self-care in order to improve your overall wellbeing and health;
  • Changing nursing specialties;
  • Seeking out a nurse mentor who you trust, admire and respect;
  • Engaging the assistance of a career coach or counsellor;
  • Moving from the clinical realm into academia or research, or vice versa;
  • Joining a nursing organisation or association that provides education, leadership or inspiration; and
  • Using psychotherapy or counselling to explore suffering, pain, unhappiness and other feelings that prevent you from truly enjoying your career.


There are a plethora of tools, strategies, and techniques for bringing sustenance to a nursing career that has lost its life force. No one wants to remain unhappy, yet the very worthwhile work of fleshing out your career once again can be arduous.

Check your nursing career’s vital signs regularly, and don’t wait to take action until the patient is almost a flatline.

Act before a crisis, intervene on a consistent basis, and your nursing career will never get to the point of no return. It’s worth it, you’re worth it, and your life as a nurse will remain satisfying and growthful when you consistently focus on the vital signs that measure your nursing career’s true potential.