As you embark on the educational path to become a nurse, you understandably focus on learning the rudiments of the profession: the nursing process, physical assessment skills, and other basic yet extremely important aspects of being a nurse.
During the novice phase of your nursing career, you then spend time honing your skills, amassing more knowledge, and otherwise earning your stripes.
Once you move beyond the novice stage, the time then arrives for you to begin considering your long-term motivations and career trajectory, as well as the footprint or legacy you wish to leave behind. More education may be in the offing, and many decisions need to be made as you press ahead.
Your nursing footprint
Your nursing footprint is the impact you have on the nursing ecosystem and the world of healthcare writ large. Every individual nurse’s legacy will look different, and none is better or worse than the other. Whatever the career path, your nursing footprint will happen with or without your active participation.
Types of nursing legacies
There are thankfully always nurses who choose the clinical role. This is a common choice that reflects a nurse’s personal commitment to being directly involved in patient care and contributing to the well-being of others.
We will always need nurses who are willing to do the task-based work of delivering nursing care, and the impact of these nurses’ important efforts can be felt in the hearts and minds of patients and their families. Whether in home health, hospice, the ICU, or the ER, clinical nurses are on the front lines, and they have the opportunity to create a very positive impact on the world.
When a nurse interfaces with a patient in a way that positively changes the course of that patient’s life, a very significant footprint has been made in the world. While that patient may not remember the nurse’s name, he or she will likely remember how a nurse intervened at a difficult time and left an indelible mark.
We also cannot overlook how nursing research is truly at the center of nursing thought. Nursing theories and science cannot exist without those who are willing to do the research that serves as the backbone of that scientific body of knowledge, and some nurses choose to dedicate their careers to this cerebral work.
Informatics and technology are another place where nurses can shine if given the opportunity. With robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning becoming more pervasive in 21st-century society, nurses can make a serious impact by adding their voices and intelligence to the ongoing conversation about these timely issues.
Nurses who choose business and entrepreneurship take the risk of going somewhat against the grain, but their roles are crucial to the growth of the profession. Nurse-owned businesses – whether directly related to healthcare or not – play an important role in society.
Choosing your road
There are innumerable roads to creating a meaningful nursing legacy. Every nurse must decide how to get where he or she wants to go, knowing full well that plans, motivations, and goals may change along the way.
For those nurses wishing to give thought to the greater meaning of their nursing journey, paying attention to the footprint one wishes to leave behind is of paramount importance. A life and career of significance lend themselves to a positive legacy, and your nursing legacy is yours to imaginatively and thoughtfully create.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. 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 NurseKeith.com.
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