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How nurses can own their expertise

Nurses are experts. Yet as a career coach, I encounter many nurses who are hesitant to take ownership of their expertise.

As highly trained professionals, we are educated, skilled, valuable members of the healthcare infrastructure; some say we’re the lifeblood (or connective tissue) of healthcare. So why do so many nurses say, “Oh, I’m just a nurse,” essentially denying their expertise and importance?

For forward career movement, being able to internalize and verbalize your expertise is essential.

Owning your nursing expertise

In most cases, nurses’ training is robust and comprehensive. While many nurses are generalists, a large number choose areas of specialized practice that require significant advanced education and training for which they shed much blood, sweat and tears.

When nurses speak in a demeaning manner about their expertise or professional relevance, they are potentially diminishing their worth in the eyes of other members of the interdisciplinary team, and essentially stating their value to the overall conversation may be less essential than that of others.

Owning your nursing expertise means taking stock of your relevance, and embodying that expertise in how you comport yourself with your patients and other healthcare providers.

Your expertise and your nursing career

When you want to move forward in your nursing career, the ability to verbalize your expertise, skill and knowledge is an essential aspect of self-definition as a savvy professional provider of 21st-century healthcare.

In terms of describing your experience and skills in a resume, cover letter or during an interview, being willing to toot your own horn and expound on your professional strengths will serve you well in the employment marketplace. The summary at the top of your resume should shout with pride and a sense of accomplishment; don’t hide your nursing expertise under the proverbial bushel.

Nurses can be demure and self-deprecating, playing down their essential role in patient care. A patient’s family may thank a nurse for the wonderful care, but the nurse may respond with, “Oh, I’m just a nurse; it was really the whole team.”

On one hand, that modesty is laudable. On the other hand, don’t you want that nurse to simply say “thank you,” acknowledging an amazing contribution?

Shine your light, nurses

As the most trusted professionals in the U.S. in every Gallup poll for more than a decade, nurses have an unprecedented level of trust vis-à-vis the American public.

When you, a professional nurse, is seeking a job, talking with friends or family, editing your resume or writing your LinkedIn summary, demonstrate pride in your accomplishments and wear your expertise on your sleeve. Toot your nursing horn, and be willing to shine your light, not hide it.

You worked hard to get where you are. If you want to move forward in your nursing career, be willing to speak with eloquence about the depth and value of your expertise.

By | 2015-10-30T17:50:55-04:00 November 1st, 2015|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs|1 Comment
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway. Keith is co-host of, a popular nursing podcast, and also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. A widely published writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He brings a plethora of experience as a nursing thought leader, holistic career coach, writer and nurse entrepreneur.

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    Anne Watts November 5, 2015 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    What a breath of fresh air. Nurses are generalists with a wide scope of knowledge, a platform from which a specialist skill can be pursued but the roots of that knowledge should not be forgotten. Nurses basic skill is to assess and provide care using the appropriate resources available and there are times that they may be that resource. This is also optimizing their leadership and if possible their coaching skills as an example to those around them.

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