Nurse Keith: Honing and Sharpening Your Nursing Expertise

Nurse Keith: Honing and Sharpening Your Nursing Expertise

Your nursing expertise is something that needs be honed and sharpened throughout your career. Stagnation can be bred by boredom and apathy, and also by lackluster work environments where you’re not challenged to grow and expand; so, guard against these enemies of professional inspiration.

No matter your areas of nursing expertise, honing your skills and expertise is an important aspect of staying current, growing as a professional, and finding new ways to dig deeper into your career.

It’s not like a knife

Your expertise, knowledge, and skill aren’t like knives; they don’t dull with use (unless you have one of those magical knives from a late-night infomercial). Rather, your degree of expertise and skill grow and expand with use. As you exercise your mind, hands, or critical thinking, they become sharper and more penetrating.

Your clinical nursing skills sharpen with practice, as do your ability to write with clarity, read research with a critical eye, and mentor and precept other nurses.

The “blade” of your “nurseness” is not a tool to be ignored; rather, it’s a tool to sharpen, hone, and nurture.

Honing in and homing in

To hone can be defined as perfecting, refining, or strengthening. You can hone your abdominal muscles, your communication skills, your ability to perform phlebotomy, or your curve ball.

In American vernacular, we talk about “honing in” on something we’re seeking, which is also sometimes referred to as “homing in” like a homing pigeon.

You may be a Baccalaureate-prepared nurse who wants to accomplish more in the course of your career; along the way, you may hone your clinical skills to the nth degree, finally coming to the realization that the only way for you to move forward professionally is to earn your Masters or Doctorate. At this point, having homed in on what’s most salient for your career, you know what you have to do, and you make it happen.

For others, further education or certification isn’t always the most practical or useful route. If you’re an earnest nurse with an entrepreneurial bent, a Masters degree may not get you where you want to go; in your case, you need hard business skills that can be learned on your own, or in various formal and informal settings. It’s really up to you and your individual circumstances.

Whet your appetite

Whetting and honing can be synonymous when referring to sharpening a blade or a skill. To whet can also be defined as stimulating appetite, and it’s the stimulating of your nurse’s appetite that may very well inspire you in new, exciting directions.

When your nursing appetite needs stimulation, seek out opportunities for learning and advancement. Whether it’s a Masters degree, a certificate program, a preceptorship, or independent learning, keep it sharp, and keep moving forward in an inspired direction.


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 for 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. He can be found at

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