10 Tips To Create a Successful Nursing Career

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Every year in May we celebrate nurses during Nurses Week.  This celebration lasts a week or so and typically ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12th. During this time, we recognize the sacrifice nurses make to keep patient’s safe, honor extraordinary acts of heroism, and reflect on what it actually means to be a nurse.

We celebrate our current nurses while attempting to inspire a generation of future nurses to be successful. Here is my definition of success: To become the nurse whom we want to work with at 2 o’clock in the morning in a crisis (when you have nobody but yourselves) or the type of nurse whom we want to care for our families.


[easy-tweet tweet=”Become the nurse whom we want to work with at 2 o’clock in the morning in a crisis.”]


Nurses Week is about recognizing and inspiring nursing SUCCESS.




A successful nurse is someone who understands that nursing is more than the assessments, the tasks, or the medications we administer. Nursing can be a life long career, a profession, and a calling. Some nurses are extremely successful as nurses while others struggle throughout their entire career.

Why is that?

After many years as a nurse, I’ve learned that success has nothing to do with the school you attended, the organization you work for, or the credentials after your name. Success has everything to do with adopting a success mindset and committing to the following 10 behaviors.



Nursing isn’t easy. There’s no way you can do what you do day after day if you don’t know WHY you do it. When faced with waning resources, added responsibilities, and life and death situations, knowing your WHY enables you to get up every day and face those challenges head on.



The number one characteristic of successful people is that they commit to personal development INDEPENDENT of what their boss or organization requires. Like the late Jim Rohn said, “A formal education will make you a living. Self education will make you a fortune.” My personal tactic is that I read something instructional or inspirational every morning without fail. I will go without FOOD before I go without reading. Reading is more nourishing.



There is a difference between “owning” your practice and “renting” it.  How do you tell the difference?  The “renter” walks past a patient’s room with a call bell on and says, “Not my patient” as she walks away while the “owner” walks in.  Owning your practice also means taking full responsibility for yourself and your nursing career. This includes your license, competencies, skills, education, and behavior.



Every conversation you have with another human either builds that relationship or tears it down. From the housekeeper to the CEO, successful nurses build relationships with every member of the healthcare team. One of the most important competencies for the 21st century is relationship management. If you’re not good at building relationships with others, start developing this skill now.



What you wear, what you say (verbal, non-verbal, and written), and how you behave should have the professional stamp of approval. Nurses frequently complain that they are not always treated with respect as professionals. Well, truth be told – I’ve seen my share of unprofessionalism from my colleagues.  Pay attention to how you interact with others. Are you radiating professionalism? If not, it’s time to kick it up a notch! Note: Unless you work with children, please do not wear jackets with Sponge Bob Square Pants!!



No matter what you face, always respond with kindness. This rule applies to patients and their families, of course, and also your coworkers, support staff, physicians, and administrators. Oh, students and their instructors too!  When faced with opportunity to “zing” someone, be kind instead. Just like violence begets violence, kindness begets kindness.



Burnout is a HUGE problem right now. More than 60% of us report feeling burned out and exhausted. How on earth are you going to care for the public if you don’t care for yourself? Make self-care a priority. Eat real foods (put down the donuts!), sleep at LEAST 7 hours per night, and exercise your muscles and heart (being busy isn’t exercise). 2017 is the year of the healthy nurse, according to the ANA. Isn’t it time the nurses become the role models for self-care and overall wellness?



We are born either more positive or more negative. However, attitude is a choice. Successful nurses understand this and when they walk across the threshold of their work environment, they CHOOSE to be positive independent of what’s happening in their own lives.  Positivity spreads positivity, just like negativity does. CHOOSE to be positive.


[easy-tweet tweet=”Positivity spreads positivity, just like negativity does. CHOOSE to be positive.”]



Think beyond YOUR unit or YOUR department. See the delivery of healthcare from a wider perspective. It’s not just about you. It’s about the world.



Help others become the best they can be. Go out of your way to help others succeed. Like the late Zig Ziglar said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”


Nursing can be a wonderful profession. Nursing is remarkably challenging yet provides us with an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people every day. Make this year YOUR year to succeed and feel good about the work you do.




Be kind. Take care. Stay connected!

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at [email protected] to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

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9 thoughts on “10 Tips To Create a Successful Nursing Career”

  1. Michael john bautista

    Your tips and insights are great. I had so much struggle and sad experience with my nursing career. Do I still have a chance to have a successful nursing career?

    1. Renee Thompson

      Yes of course you have a chance to have a successful career! It’s never too late to start focusing on growing your practice!

    2. Renee Thompson

      Yes of course!!! It’s never too late. I didn’t really take charge of my career until I was working for 8 years and then finally decided that I wanted to grow professionally. I made the decision to go back to school and doors opened!

  2. Hello Renee, awesome share. I loved reading your insights. Nursing field has led to another level from past few years. I am also focusing on my career these days and have some queries to ask you. Which courses are included in the nursing field?

    1. Renee Thompson

      Thanks so much for your comments. Regarding courses in the nursing field…all body systems, communication, leadership, etc. If you want to see a syllabus, you could access on almost any school of nursing website. Best wishes!!

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