Superheroes are commonplace in American culture, and while caped crusaders regularly leap across screens both big and small to save the day, nurses are real live human beings whose superpowers are much more worthy of our attention.
From empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence to technological innovation, business acumen, and multi-casualty trauma response, nurses do amazing things every day that might as well be characterized as nothing less than super-powered. And when nurses choose to own up to how they excel, doors can open in their careers due to increased assertiveness, self-confidence, and positive self-regard.
Why Nurses Deny Their Bragging Rights
Nurses are often humble individuals who don’t seek the limelight. Nurses generally don’t bask in the glory of a job well done, and few will take the time to pat themselves on the back, even if they’ve just saved a life. Humility is a hallmark of many nurses’ personalities, which can stand in the way of a nurse acknowledging that anything they do is special or praiseworthy.
Ask one hundred nurses why they became a nursing professional in the first place, and the majority will say that they like to help people. This is all well and good, but there’s a lot more to it than that. As a nurse, when you hesitate to take credit or talk about your expertise, you fail to openly acknowledge the specialized skills and knowledge that make you uniquely qualified and an expert in your field. Humble bragging rights are yours for the taking.
Put simply; nurses like to get the job done but don’t have the habit of broadcasting what they’ve accomplished. As natural collaborators, nurses can be prone to deny personal credit and instead say that the team was responsible for a positive outcome. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can stand in the way of promotions, recognition, and opportunities that a nurse with more willingness to talk about their accomplishments might be less likely to miss.
What Can Claiming Your Superpower Do For You?
As a nurse, if you can accept the fact that you have superpowers that can positively and powerfully affect the world around you, you’re one step closer to claiming them as your own. It may not come naturally, but practicing owning your positive qualities and strengths can do wonders for your nursing career. Why? Because when you become accustomed to humbly proclaiming your expertise and taking credit where it’s due, your ability to do many things is strengthened, including:
- Asking for a raise or promotion
- Writing about your expertise and accomplishments on resumes, cover letters, and your LinkedIn profile
- Describing your strengths in a job interview
- When applying for a certification, fellowship, grant, or internship
- Writing a personal essay for application to a master’s or Ph.D. program
Describing your accomplishments is important in making a case for your skill, knowledge, and expertise. If you’re not in the habit of finding the words to tell your own story, you’ll be less able to tell that story in a compelling way when it counts the most.
Being a strong team player is a wonderful characteristic, but you also need to be able to own your part in positive outcomes, clearly claiming your accomplishments and contributions. For example:
“During my tenure as nurse manager of the step-down unit, I initiated a top-to-bottom review of our asepsis practices. We identified several important gaps, changed certain protocols, and our nosocomial infection rate decreased 18 percent over 12 months.”
“In my time here at Zebra Valley Medical Center, I’ve contributed significantly to the Quality and Evidence-Based Practice committees, especially as Chair of the Quality committee for 16 months. I’ve also become an Epic super-user, precepted new nurse employees, and participated in an important CCU research study. I see myself as an intrapreneurial employee who has contributed significantly here at Zebra Valley. I feel I deserve to be awarded one of the slots in the Nursing Innovation Fellowship.”
A Future With Arms Wide Open
If you allow your superpowers to be expressed, they can empower you and your nursing career. If you can verbalize your gifts, describe your accomplishments, and enumerate your strengths, you’ll go further when others can clearly feel your assertiveness and confidence. Humble, positive self-regard is healthy, and more nurses need to embrace the fact that they’re awesome.
When you humbly yet proudly acknowledge what makes you the wonderful person and nurse you are, doors will open — in your heart, mind, and world around you. And when you walk through those doors, the future will welcome you with arms wide open.
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is a nurse, holistic career coach, writer, podcaster, and keynote speaker. Keith has conducted more than 2,000 coaching sessions with nurses from all walks of life, and his podcast, The Nurse Keith Show, reaches nurses throughout the world with fascinating interviews and messages of inspiration and career strategy. He lives and works in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.