Where’s Your Nursing Magic? 

Where’s Your Nursing Magic? 

How did you feel when you graduated from nursing school, and what were you planning for your exciting new career? What were you thinking? Was there fear and trepidation or excitement and anticipation? It was a mixture of all of the above. For some new nurses, this can be a magical time, but only sometimes, and sometimes the magic never happens. Where’s your nursing magic these days?

The Magic of New Beginnings

In the mid-1990s, I graduated with my associate degree in nursing. I was in my early 30s, had a young son in junior high, and until then, I only had a high school diploma and certifications in yoga instruction and massage.

Getting that degree fulfilled my promise to myself to set an example for my son by having a respectable, meaningful career. It also fulfilled my desire to do something productive with my life. Helping people and being of service were (and are) important values for me.

I was chosen to give the student  address at graduation, and it was a highly emotional moment for me, my fellow students, and my family and friends. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated, and then we all went on our merry way and began our careers along the various paths we’d chosen.

The beginning of my career was magical in specific ways, and that magic has followed me over the years a fair amount. I’ve also experienced significant burnout and compassion fatigue, unhappiness, lack of inspiration, confusion, and just not knowing what to do next. Even so, nursing has been good to me overall, and my investment in that associate degree and the BSN that came a few years later has paid substantial dividends.

Where Was Your Magic? 

If you think back to the beginning of your career, was there magic as your career got underway? If so, how did that magic look, feel, and taste? The circumstances of your career launch were informed by myriad factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Your personal feelings about your new career
  • Your physical and mental health
  • The economic realities you were facing
  • The job market
  • Your family situation
  • Your first job and employer
  • The patient population you chose to work with
  • Luck, uncertainty, and chance

What were those first weeks and months like? Were you traumatized by this new career, or did you dive headfirst and thrive? Examining what happened in those early years can inform the present.

When the Magic Wanes

If the magic has waned, have you been able to get it back again? And if you haven’t been able to find it again, how have you coped?

None of us want to feel like the magic of a career we once loved has drained away like the colors fading from a watercolor painting left in the rain. However, it happens, and nurses and their interdisciplinary colleagues can struggle with compassion fatigue, burnout, and a sense that things aren’t right anymore. It all adds up, whether it’s due to bullying and incivility, being underpaid and undervalued, unsafe staffing, or poor leadership.

Has your magic waned? Have you lost touch with why you’re a nurse? If your magic has waned, consider the following:

  • Change specialties and do something novel — new environments, patient populations, or responsibilities can renew your interest and curiosity.
  • A well-chosen advanced degree or certification can uplift a stagnant career.
  • Reach out to nurses doing exciting things and ask for an informational interview.
  • Make a list of the things about your career that work for you, and consider how to make those aspects more prevalent.
  • Consider what values brought you to nursing in the first place and if those values still hold meaning today.
  • Choose from dozens of nursing podcasts, which can be sources of ideas and inspiration.
  • Bring new activities, hobbies, and interests into your life — if you’re happy outside of work, it can sometimes make work seem less burdensome.
  • Join a professional nursing organization that suits your interests.
  • Attend conferences.
  • Find a mentor who can provide advice and support.

Your nursing career magic can be whittled away in a multitude of ways. Nursing isn’t generally a walk in the park, and being a member of the most trusted profession isn’t always enough compensation for the toll it can take in its worst moments.

If you have your magic, the fire of inspiration is burning inside of you, and you feel like you’re in the right place at the right time doing work that matters; not much can beat that feeling.

When you received your degree, passed the NCLEX, and held your nursing license in your hand for the first time, your new career may have felt like the promise of a beautiful sunrise. If that sun is no longer shining on you, you can fight to get it back. You deserve to be happy and to feel that magic again.

If the magic is still within your grasp, you can seize it. Our profession has a noble and significant place in history, and there’s no doubt that every nurse has the right to feel that magic as they go about their important work. Here’s to the hope that you can feel it again if you’ve lost it and that, if you’ve managed to retain it, the magic remains burning in your heart for many years to come.