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Just a Nurse? No Such Thing

Donna Cardillo, RN, BS | Verticalnet, Inc.

April 03, 2008

How many times have you said “I’m just a nurse” or “I’m only an RN / LPN.” When I hear someone say this I’m always tempted to say, “As opposed to what? Someone with a better job, better profession, better skills?”

Nurses are multitalented individuals. We have unique skills, many of which are transferable into other areas of healthcare. We’re also adaptable, flexible, and versatile – all key words in today’s healthcare market.

Surprised to hear this? You shouldn’t be. But we, as nurses, are notorious for underestimating our worth. So let’s discuss some of our unique talents and abilities.

Diverse skills

Nurses possess many innate skills including teaching, counseling, and managing complex projects. These activities are second nature to us. We do them everyday without thinking about them. They’re so much a part of who we are, we’re often unable to isolate them to transfer into other areas of work. For example, I recently talked to a nurse who had worked in an oncology unit for 15 years. She told me she wanted to apply for a counseling position but that she didn’t have any experience. In reality, she had 15 years of counseling experience. She just didn’t see it.

We’re also skilled at problem solving, organizing, planning, and analyzing. Nurses are detailed oriented, innovative, and resourceful. We’re both analytical and creative. Give us a job that needs to be done, and we get it done with the time and resources available, regardless of how scarce. And talk about managing multiple priorities – nurses are masters at this.

What’s more, nurses are generally regarded as honest, hard-working, dependable, and reliable. We’re considered credible and possessing a good work ethic. We think on our feet and are quick learners. How many times have you been thrown into a new situation and required to act without any orientation? How often have you had to learn new skills, new technology, or new procedures with short notice? This is a way of life for us.

Nurses possess excellent communication skills, too. We have to communicate with people in some of the most stressful situations imaginable. We’re accustomed to adjusting our method of communication depending on whom we’re addressing and the purpose of the dialogue- to educate, convince, and inform. We regularly communicate complex information to a diverse group of people (physicians, patients and families, the community, and other healthcare providers, to name just a few).

Want to talk business? We’re totally customer service oriented, always looking out for the needs and concerns of our patients. Nurses are even natural salespeople. Every time you have to convince a patient to adhere to a regimen, or follow up on a test, you’re selling a concept or idea. We work well under pressure, are team players, and have never had a “That’s not my job” attitude. Even a nurse right out of nursing school or college possesses a body of knowledge that is valuable in many arenas.

Ending the put-down

I hope by now you’re thinking, “Gee, I never knew how talented I am as a nurse.” So let’s put an end to the self-put-down that “I’m only a nurse” right here and now. Don’t ever say “only”or “just” when describing your credentials, title, or degrees. Rather, the next time someone asks what you do, think about all that it means and say proudly, “I am a nurse.”

Reprinted with permission from ( Copyright by Verticalnet, Inc., Horsham, PA., 215-315-3247. All rights reserved.

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