A Bird’s-Eye View of Your Nursing Career


Published: 25 January 2020

When you sit back and consider your nursing career, it’s fairly easy to get caught up in the minutiae and lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Just like a bird sitting in a tree cannot see the entire expanse of the forest, a wider perspective is necessary in order to ponder the overall arc of your career.

Thus, gaining that all-important bird’s-eye view lends itself to an essential frame of reference as you seek forward momentum.

Forest scenery | Image

Perspective is Key

In order to fully evaluate where you’ve been, where you currently are and where you may want to go, perspective must be gained; without it, you may not make the best choices.

If, for instance, the emergency department has been your clinical focus for a number of years and you feel ready for something new, you may want to stop, take a breath and give yourself time to observe your thoughts, assess your goals and consider potential next steps.

This may entail going back to school, seeking a specialist certification or simply choosing a new practice area that holds interest for you and may not require further formal education.

These types of career transitions can have long-term consequences and costs, thus, making thoughtful decisions is paramount to satisfying your goals.

Delineating Your Goals

Speaking of goals, you can view them as short-, mid-, and long-term.

  • Short-term goals pertain to immediate needs (e.g. rent and mortgage)
  • Mid-term goals have to do with the next five to ten years and taking larger steps forward (e.g. marriage, having children, returning to school, earning certifications)
  • Long-term goals are regarding your ultimate life goals (e.g. retirement, travel, spending time with grandchildren).

When taking the bird’s-eye view, your personal and professional desires must be taken into account.

If you determine that you’d like to have several children within the next five years, this may drive your choice to become a student once again fairly soon, or perhaps delay furthering your education until your children are themselves enrolled in primary school.

In terms of your long-term goals, if a comfortable retirement and extensive travel are in the offing, then it might be smart to choose a career path that is more certain to help you save a significant amount of money over the next 30 years.

It can be easy to become confused by your immediate needs and what you want to do with your life in the bigger picture. You may find it necessary to have your elderly mother with mild dementia move in with you and your family, and this short-term need may, in fact, scuttle certain professional plans, such as returning to school.

Then again, if your spouse can readily increase their earnings and allow you to embark on a course of study to become a nurse practitioner, it may be possible to bring your mother home to live with you and pursue your education at the same time.

There would likely be many potential scenarios to consider, and having the foresight to pull the camera back and take in the wider view of your life trajectory could be useful in making the best choice for all concerned.

Soccer ball goal | Image

Consider the View

When assessing the state of your nursing career, consider the bird’s-eye view as well as the minutiae and remember that your short-, mid- and long-term goals also deserve your attention along the way to any major decision that will impact both your personal life and your professional journey.

Focusing solely on the small details will not allow you to thoroughly expand the horizons of your career, nor will only seeing the big picture make allowances for short-term necessities.

Be willing to pivot between the overarching scenario and the smaller pieces of the puzzle, and this will lend itself to prudent and intelligent choices and plans that will serve every aspect of your life and professional trajectory.


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Keith Carlson View profile
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at www.nursekeith.com and Digital Doorway.