Nurse Keith: Be a Well-Rounded Nurse

Nurse Keith: Be a Well-Rounded Nurse

When you’re studying to be a nurse, you naturally spend time focusing on subjects required by your nursing program. As a novice nurse, you might study pathophysiology, the nursing process, and other subjects; as a nurse pursuing a BSN, MSN, or DNP, you take various specialized classes. Nursing education can be intense and all-consuming, but what else do you need to know as a well-rounded healthcare professional?

Inroads of understanding

As a clinician, you will encounter patients from many backgrounds. You of course cannot directly relate to the life journeys and experiences of every patient, but if you’re a well-rounded individual, you will have more understanding of the human condition and a developed sense of empathy and relatedness to others.

Humans connect through art, literature, politics, economics, popular culture, and other areas of common interest. You can’t possibly be deeply tuned into every aspect of human life, but the broader your understanding of the movements and conditions shaping society and culture, the stronger your ability to find common ground with a patient when you need it most.

Whether you’re working with a World War II veteran or a pre-teen, you can seek inroads of understanding that will build bridges between you and the person on the exam table, in the hospital bed, or sitting across from you.

Curiosity fuels understanding 

As a nurse, it’s not incumbent upon you to read the paper, watch TV, go to the movies, and listen to the latest music in order to be an effective clinician. You don’t need to grasp the geopolitics of Asia to administer chemotherapy.

However, true curiosity and desire for understanding bring you knowledge and experience that add to the richness of your character and your ability to relate to others.

Being a well-read and intellectually robust person can serve you powerfully. Not only can you find conversational commonalities with more people in diverse situations, you also develop a deeper understanding of human nature that informs your ability to find common ground.

EQ rules

Aside from understanding history, politics, or popular culture, developing emotional intelligence and your so-called “E.Q.” (Emotional Quotient) will also elevate the quality of your relationships, including with your patients and colleagues.

The ability to empathize, to see life from another’s perspective, and to relate to others’ emotions is a skill that can be developed; while you sharpen your intellect, you can also sharpen your emotional quotient.

Bring your whole self to work

You can bring your whole self to work, including your intellect, your emotional intelligence, your empathy, and your understanding and human relatability.

The quality of your interactions with a frightened patient lying in a hospital bed will be directly impacted by who you are, how you think, what you know and understand, and how you can or cannot put yourself in that person’s shoes. This cannot necessarily be taught in nursing school, so it’s up to you to bring your curious, authentic self to the table in order to learn far beyond your textbooks. It’s a lifelong process that can be imbued with your desire to be the most compassionate, intelligent, and well-rounded nurse you can be.

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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