Nurse Keith: Nurses as Lifelong Learners

Nurse Keith: Nurses as Lifelong Learners

Have you ever known a nurse who rests on his or her laurels when it comes to knowledge and skill? Most nurses are lifelong learners who are constantly accumulating more knowledge, expertise, and experience, and it’s a rare nurse indeed who chooses to not apply his or her mind towards the goal of constant learning and professional growth. 

Learning begins in school

Without a doubt, a nurse’s learning journey begins in school while getting those pesky nursing prerequisites out of the way. Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology and Sociology, Human Growth and Development, and other courses form the backbone of many pre-nursing course loads. These are important underpinnings, and they whet the appetite for what’s to come.

In nursing school – whether it be an ADN or BSN – the learning gets more complex as the nursing process and various theories are superimposed over the academic information being digested. With pharmacology and pathophysiology coming onboard, the novice nurse can begin to feel his or her head swim.

At the level of a MSN or DNP, the learning process broadens and deepens in some ways, and narrow in others. A Doctor of Nursing Practice program will delve much more deeply into ever more complex aspects of advanced clinical nursing.

Learning outside school

Most nurses need to earn a certain number of continuing education hours in order to renew their professional license; some states only conduct random audits from time to time, while others may require more rigorous documentation.

Some nurses treat the need for CEUs as a burden, hurrying through online CEU programs in order to take the post-test and earn the credit hours. Not all continuing education experiences are created equal, and most nurses have likely encountered a wide range of options in this regard.

Conferences, seminars, webinars, and other learning milieus offer a wide variety of opportunities for ongoing learning. Many nurses pursue certification in myriad nursing specialties, accumulating skills and experiences that lend themselves to new professional opportunities and specialized practice.

Aside from official modes of learning, some nurses utilize podcasts, videos, blogs, articles, and journals as platforms for accumulating knowledge; there are no rules, (aside from earning required CEUs), and learning can be a way of life.

Learning as a way of life

Some nurses are like sponges; if they’re not at a conference or taking an online CEU, they’re listening to podcasts, reading magazines, learning about human nature, or tackling some new form of knowledge or experience like Emotional Intelligence, Transpersonal Psychology, dance therapy, social media, or yoga.

Nursing knowledge isn’t just about book learning; most forms of nursing involve interaction with other human beings, so anything we learn about human life and love is just as important as tubes, syringes, blood gases, and cells.

The curious nurse loves to learn for the sake of learning; the curious nurse brings her nursing thought process to multiple forms of learning and experience.

Be curious. Learn and grow because you love it. Be a nursing sponge for experience, knowledge, and skill.

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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