Your Nursing Career, Your Personal Values


Published: 25 June 2019

For many nurses and other healthcare professionals, a career consists of a job that you do in order to pay the bills and put food on the table.

While this is generally the most common reason for working in the first place, some nurses find that there’s much more to it than that.

Imbuing your nursing career with a personal mission that reflects your values can bring meaning to your work far beyond task-based nursing care and money in your pocket

Do you have values and a mission that underscores the true nature of your nursing career and the reason you’re a nurse in the first place?

Our Values, Our Choices

Our values often, but not always, have a profound impact on our choice of career. Granted, some people choose a profession solely based on potential income, but we can hazard a guess that a vast number of people seek out careers that reflect their values and allow them to contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

An individual generally doesn’t choose nursing for the awesome outfits, long vacations, convenient hours and amazing salaries; thus, there must be another reason for entering our highly respected profession.

Ask almost any nurse why they chose this career path and you’ll hear something about wanting to help people, contributing to society or following in the footsteps of a friend or family member.

You may also hear tales of someone having been cared for by a nurse whose dedication, skill and compassion simply changed their life and made them realise that nursing was a venerable career with great societal value. Consider these questions:

  • Where does the meaning of your nursing career come from?
  • What values form the foundation of your choice of professional identity?
  • Are you one of those people whose life was changed by a nurse?
  • Was your aunt, mother, or uncle an inspiring nurse who influenced your career choice?
  • Did you enter the nursing path due to a strong desire to serve others and give back to society?

No matter your reasoning, there is likely a number of influences that led you to become a nurse. Are you consciously aware of the meaning behind your career?

Scenic view of mountains and paddocks | Image

Your Personal/Professional Mission

My nursing career was superficially chosen based on the fact that I had a teenage son, a wife in college and the need to contribute more robustly to our family finances.

However, digging deeper than this, I first realised that I was following in the laudable footsteps of three paternal aunts who were nurses, one of whom personally worked with General George Patton during World War II. Our family’s nursing heritage didn’t end with my aunts: after I dove into my career, one of my cousins also followed suit.

Prior to becoming a nurse, my work focused on serving as a staff member in group homes for people living with developmental disabilities as a private duty home health aide, and as a self-employed but less than successful massage therapist and yoga teacher.

I realised that caring and the power of human touch and connection were part and parcel of where I chose to work, and I wanted a career that would take me further down that road.

Questions to Consider

  • What reasons led you to choose nursing as a career?
  • What personal mission do you feel empowers your work as a nurse?
  • What aspects of your personality have directly impacted your career choice?
  • How do you feel about the work you do as a nurse, and do you see your contributions and labor as more than just a job?

Identifying your personal and professional mission can lead to finding more meaning in your nursing career. Since having meaning can help us to feel better about our work in the world, knowing that your career means more than just a paycheck can also help to avoid burnoutand compassion fatigue.

After all, a job without meaning is just a job, and nursing is likely to be easier to enjoy and feel good about when your work feels directly aligned with your values.

Whatever values are the underpinning of your life and personality, explore how they also impact your career.

Consider how nursing satisfies something within you and how your career can be guided by your values and what you wish to bring to the world.

When we feel good about our work and know that it contributes to the greater good and the larger story of our lives, greater career satisfaction and contentment are often the happy result.


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Keith Carlson View profile
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. 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. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at and Digital Doorway.