February 23, 2020

Morning Vitals: New Year’s Resolutions to Enhance Your Nursing Career and Unify Your Personal and Work Lives

Last week, I looked ahead toward 2020 and laid out a few goals for Morning Vitals. Setting that in context, with all the talk this week about New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been thinking about how New Year’s resolutions might relate to one’s nursing career. Here are a few suggestions.

Most New Year’s resolutions relate to personal goals, which for many people mean goals they hope to accomplish in their “personal” lives, as opposed to their “work” lives. For so many people, that’s a fundamental distinction they take for granted. People grow up with the intuition that their work should somehow be kept separate from the things in life they enjoy and value most.

The underlying assumption of this viewpoint is that work is an evil, something to be endured, even suffered, in order to remove it as an obstacle to the fulfillment that can only be found in one’s personal life. As such, work is seen as impersonal, something that suspends or militates against our personhood. As a result, people who live according to this philosophy, seek personal fulfillment primarily, with work-related goals as a means to the end of maximizing personal fulfillment.

I recommend a different view. This view is not original to me, but I have found it a more solid foundation for my life and goals than the “personal life versus work life” distinction. In short, I encourage you to consider your personal and work lives as parts of a unified whole. You were made for more than work and even for more than personal fulfillment with yourself at the pinnacle of existence. Realizing that allows one to escape the traps of idleness and selfishness to which we humans are prone.

If you’re a nurse, you’ve probably seen both idleness and selfishness in various forms throughout your career. Maybe you’ve even struggled to resist these traits. Who hasn’t? Remember, they’re traps that are easy to fall into. You’re not alone, but you may be in the minority of people who are actually conscious of the danger in everyday life of living a fragmented existence, seeking mere personal fulfillment apart from the fulfillment of working for someone else or some transcending ideal.

Now that I’ve recommended a different view of goals, what are some New Year’s resolutions I would propose for nursing career development? This isn’t an exhaustive list, and the items are somewhat general. However, I hope it will give you an idea where I’m coming from.

  • Identify someone or something for which you are working as a nurse. Don’t be afraid to let your ultimate goals, those that motivate your quest for personal fulfillment, influence your nursing-related goals. Think of your work as a nurse as a ministry.
  • Foster the development of a community of at least two like-minded colleagues in your sphere of influence in nursing. Look for ways to express your appreciation for them. Encourage them in all situations. Accentuate the many ways in which your work as nurses is not just simultaneous, but truly collaborative.
  • Commit to engaging in career development beyond what is required of you in your current nursing position. Many of us have ongoing requirements to earn continuing education credits. Learning beyond those requirements not only demonstrates your motivation to develop your career. The sacrifice of your time and possibly money connects the personal and work fragments of your life in a profound way.
  • Consider the next steps of your career this year, and plan concrete steps to advancing it. Are you satisfied with your current position? Why or why not? If so, how will you seek personal fulfillment through honoring your transcending ideals in your current work? If not, what steps will you take this year to bring your work and personal lives into better alignment?

Do you sense there’s something missing from this list? What obstacles in your life might prevent you from achieving these broad goals? What strengths do you have as you try to accomplish these goals?

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