R.N. Q&A #10: Should I be a nurse?

life coach nurses robb hillman self care

Dear Robb,

I need help.

I'm currently in school for nursing. But seeing what I'm seeing, I'm not at all sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. But I can't figure out what else I would want to do either! How do you figure it out? How do you just pick something and be like 'this is what I was meant to do, this is what I LOVE to do'?????? Gahhhhhh. I feel like my life has no direction at the moment.


Dear Margaret,

I hope you know you aren’t alone in asking these questions, and in wanting to know that you are taking actions that are going to make you happy. We all do at one point or another, because we want to make smart moves that lead us to happiness and the job of our dreams.

Often we trick ourselves into thinking there is a RIGHT answer, a RIGHT choice, and if we don’t find it in time then anything else we do is just going to be wrong and we will pay the price for it with unhappiness. 

But here is the weird thing - finding your dream job is simply a choice. How do you pick the right thing? You pick a thing and decide that it is right! The heavens don’t open. A fairy godmother doesn’t appear in a puff of sparkles to wave her wand and make you happy. We don’t get a letter from our future selves to congratulate us on making such a good choice.

The very good news - and this really is the most amazing good news - is that all that happens is that we make the choice that we are happy. We decide that we love what we do and are happy with what we have. I certainly can’t tell you what you are going to love. Your boss can’t, your friends can’t, your mother can’t. You just decide that you love something or that you don’t. The choice does not happen outside of you. 

For some strange quirk of humanity we simply LOVE to pretend that there is some romantic thing out there, one job that is just going to fill us up and float our boat and make us delirious with joy. But really, all that happens is that we do something, and then we decide that we made the right choice. And we choose to be happy about it. 

Or not.

Anyway, I say all this just to say this: you are perfectly normal. Nothing has gone wrong here. And what I would offer you is that going forward on your journey, if you want to be happy, stop waiting to be happy. Stop waiting for someone or something outside of you to validate your choices. Not because doing so is wrong, but just because, why wait to have something that you can have right now?

If you want to be a nurse, be a nurse! I promise you that you can be happy and satisfied and fulfilled being a nurse. You could also be all of those things doing something else. THERE IS NO WRONG ANSWER.

If you want to know if nursing is a right answer, ask yourself this: do you want nursing to be the right answer? If so, then great, all you have to do is decide that it is, and then work on dealing with all of the challenges that come up. 

If you don’t, or if you aren’t sure, then ask yourself, why? What are you afraid of? What is stopping you from deciding to love it? Are you willing to work on overcoming those obstacles or do you want to want something easier? (I promise you nursing can be fulfilling and awesome, but I won’t promise it will ever be easy.)

Whatever your choice, make it with pride. This is your life, and you get to do whatever you want with it. I suggest loving it. I suggest being happy and having adventures and not wasting time and energy second guessing ourselves. Doubt is so boring! ;-) 

Good luck. I know you will figure it out. I hope you have fun doing it. 


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE.

How To Not Find Happiness - SELF CARE FOR NURSES Episode #20

I just saw a movie called "Hector and the Search for Happiness" from a few years ago. A psychiatrist goes on a world-wide adventure to find happiness, has many incredible adventures, and boils his experience down to some meme-friendly catchphrases. 

I found the movie delightful, but one "lesson" in particular though caught my attention. 

Life is not so simple that we can find something by avoiding it's opposite.

We don't find wealth by avoiding paying our bills. 

We don't find love simply by avoiding hate. 

Avoiding some things may be a perfectly valid goal for your life. But remember that goal is not the same thing as finding its opposite. 

If happiness is your goal, then look for happiness. 

Focus on happiness.

Choose happiness.

Because that is how you will find it.

Life Coaching for Nurses Robb Hillman Unhappiness

Nursing humor - SELF CARE FOR NURSES Episode #19

This week I'm talking about nurse humor.

As nurses, we sometimes get accused of using gallows humor.

To which most of us would probably reply, "Yep! We sure do!"

When things are at their worst, humor can be an important tool to break the tension and relieve the pressure.

I create and share a lot of memes on Facebook. Some are inspirational, but many are just trying to be a little funny so we can crack a smile in the face of so much stress, sadness and sometimes death. 

When stress and sadness at work are the norm, laughter becomes a vital component of self care. 

Stop the cycle of your sympathetic nervous system and reduce the amount of cortisol pumping into your body.

Self care for nurses Robb Hillman Life Coaching


Don't forget to give yourself opportunities to laugh. 

Watch a funny movie. 

Tell your coworkers a stupid joke. 

Giggle at a silly nursing meme.

Ask yourself "How can I laugh more today?"

Life is too short to miss those precious opportunities to laugh. 

Self Care for Nurses Robb Hillman Coaching

What do I do? I'm a nurse, I do whatever it takes.

Robb Hillman Coaching Nurses

We coaches are always thinking about how to explain what exactly it is that we do. A very smart friend of mine recently shared her perspective on this. When she gets asked "What do you do?", she responds "Whatever it takes."

I absolutely love this response, mainly because I think we nurses respond the same way every day.

We have too many patients, with too many tasks, and too many distractions, and too many obstacles. 

And yet, somehow, we find time to get it done.

Somehow, we find a way to comfort.

Somehow, we save lives and still find time to document the education we gave on medication side effects. 

When things go wrong we work with what we have, and help each other out, and jury rig equipment to make it all work.

So when it comes to being a nurse, I know you understand "Whatever it takes". 

New question: What would your world be like if you took care of yourself as well as you take care of your patients?

Nursing Life Coaching Robb Hillman self care

What is your self care was not an optional activity? You know, IF you have time and IF you get around to it and IF someone else doesn't need you more.

What if the question was "What do you do to take care of yourself?"

Could you still answer "whatever it takes"?

Being a nurse is hard, and I know if you are still reading this I am preaching to the choir here. So if you don't want your nursing career to flame out in martyrdom and burnout, then you might want to consider how well you are building yourself up.

If you hate your job, make a change.

If you are sitting in your car in the parking lot until the last possible second because you are afraid to start your shift, something isn't right. 

If you feel empty, find ways to fill yourself up. Go on a walk. Get a massage. Eat better. Sleep more. Play with a dog. All those things we know we "should" do, but never seem to make time for. 

Self care is not something that will happen to you. You can't just wait for it to magically happen on its own. 

You make the choice to prioritize yourself and your well being. You make the choice to find the ways to fill yourself up so that you can continue to take care of your patients. You make the choice that you are worth it.

(Pro tip: You are.)

We are all different, and what you need to do is going to be unique to you. But if you are ready to feel better, then start doing it. 

Whatever it takes.

A Nurse's Thanksgiving

Robb Hillman Coaching Nurses Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, like most holidays, means something a little different to many nurses. Most of us will be working. We will probably miss the meal with our families, because even if we managed to get Thanksgiving day off, we probably couldn't get enough days off in a row over a holiday weekend to travel to see our loved ones. 

So with minimal effort, we can come up with plenty of things to complain about. It is frustrating. We can feel left out. It isn't fair. 

But that isn't what Thanksgiving is about, is it? This Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a list of some of the things I'm grateful for as a nurse.

1. I'm grateful for the potluck we are inevitably going to have at work. Yes, Carol is going to bring that creepy salad she always makes, and Pat is going to beg us all for gluten-free dishes that don't taste very good, but hopefully Bernadette will make her special curry. And while we all say we want to try different kinds of pie, I know I'm going to be sad when the chocolate pie everyone said was boring gets finished before I have a chance to get a piece. 

But I'm grateful for this experience. The chance to share a laugh and some food with my coworkers who, let's face it, are practically like any other (dysfunctional) family. Years from now I'm going to remember these meals with great fondness. 

2. I'm grateful for the meal the facility gives us. OK, ok, so it isn't going to taste anything like Mom makes. But as easy as it can sometimes be to complain about administration, I do appreciate the gesture. 

Robb Hillman Coaching Nurses are appreciated

3. I'm grateful for my coworkers. Yeah, some of them are brats and stinkers and make bad jokes and lose their temper and don't communicate as well as I wish. (Though to be fair they probably say the same thing about me sometimes.) For better or worse, I spend a significant amount of my life at work, and these are the people who I'm sharing it with, these are the people who are there to witness my good days and my bad days and everything in between. I see them more than some of my own family members. And when things get hard, I know who has my back. When a life is on the line, I know who is gonna be there helping me do what needs to be done. I'm grateful for that.

4. I'm grateful for my patients. Yes, some of them are brats and stinkers and make bad jokes and lose their temper and don't communicate as well as I wish. But when I get to hold someone's hand, when I get a whispered "thank you", when I know I saved a life even though the patient doesn't - it is all worth it. 

5. I'm grateful that you are a nurse. Because odds are someday I will find myself in a hospital, and when I do I am quite certain I will rely on my nurses to take care of me. I sincerely hope that day is a long ways off, but when it comes, I hope I get taken care of by someone like you.

6. I'm grateful that I'm a nurse. This job is hard. My feet hurt, and my bladder is permanently distended, and I hear the IV pumps beeping in my sleep. I take the blame, I fix other people's mistakes, I go above and beyond, I mourn the patients I've lost, and I'm not told I'm appreciated nearly enough considering what I do.

And yet I'm still grateful. I had my choice of careers. Nursing wasn't the easy default option. No one accidentally becomes a nurse. I chose it on purpose, because I felt I could make a difference. 

And even on my hardest day, even when we are understaffed and the computers crash and the patients are mean - I know that just by being there I am making a difference. 

I matter. When I look at what I do, I know this to be true. 

I am a helper.

Things would be worse if I wasn't there.

I take pride in that knowledge. And I am grateful I have the opportunity to help so many people. 

I'd feel silly calling myself a hero. But I will say that I'm a badass. All nurses are. 


It's Thanksgiving. What are you grateful for? Look around and start noticing. Are you grateful for the the degrees and credentials you have earned? Are you grateful for the opportunity to be part of the nation's most trusted profession? Heck, are you grateful for the paycheck and the 401(k)?

Are you grateful to be employed? Are you grateful for the employment options you have as a nurse? Are you grateful that your friends and family trust you so much they want to show you every time they get a rash?

Are you grateful that you know better than to check your blood sugar after you eat lunch? Are you grateful that you know you can't get the flu from the flu shot? Are you grateful that you get to be deliciously annoyed and self-righteous every time a character on TV shocks asystole? 

Make your list, whatever it is. Appreciating and being grateful for what we have is a direct path to happiness. And you, my nurse friend, deserve to be happy.

Outrage is a pathway to action. But it is not the only path.

Robb Hillman Coaching Life Coaching for Nurses Outrage

How do you feel?

No, this isn’t a geeky 80’s Star Trek IV reference. (Or at least it isn’t ONLY a geeky 80’s Star Trek IV reference.)

I don’t have to tell you the world is changing. I don’t have to tell you that opinions in our country are polarized, full of outrage and disdain. I don’t have to tell you that politicians and the media both encourage and feed that outrage in their efforts to manipulate us, either for votes and money or attention and money.

But how do you feel?

We’ve all seen the clickbait articles on social media. The ones that either gross us out or make us angry and self-righteous, so angry in fact that we don’t even resist clicking the link so we can feed our outrage. “You won’t believe what their candidate did to this puppy - and got away with it!” Nine times out of ten the article is either a total disappointment that doesn’t live up to the headline, or else we realize it is satire or even totally made up.

And yet we don’t stop clicking.

The pundits and politicians are trying VERY VERY hard to teach us that outrage feels good. They tell us that outrage is motivating. They tell us our outrage is proof of what a good person we are. They tell us that no decent and intelligent human could fail to feel outraged over how crazy the world has gotten.

And we want to be motivated. We want to be a good person. We want to be decent and intelligent. And after years and years of getting bombarded with these arguments, we start climbing on board the outrage train.

But, how do you feel?

You aren't a newly resurrected Spock, and yet many of us are just as confused as he was by this question. 

Where does the anger sit in your body? Does the outrage help you sleep better? Does the time you spend arguing with your high school friend’s wife’s uncle on Facebook feel like time well spent? When you see your anger-fueled snarky comments the next day, do you feel proud and inspired? Are the hurt feelings and damaged or lost relationships worth it when nothing changes? Who is the person you want to be when you don’t get your way?


I know some of you are hanging on to the idea that these feelings do help you. That they are a necessary evil because they motivate you to try to change the world for the better. That even though they make you crazy, at least you are being true to what you believe in and are advocating for your principles. 

But, and I’m going to jump into the 90's and do my best Morpheus imitation here, what if I told you that you did not have to feel outraged in order to accomplish any of those things? 

What if I told you that you could fight injustice and stand up for freedom and acknowledge problems and pick sides and still feel happy and motivated and invigorated the whole time? 

Outrage is a pathway to action. But it is not the only path. 

Outrage can be mentally and physically exhausting. It can trick you into making generalizations and to oversimplify reality and to assume the worst of those who may disagree with you. It can isolate and further distance you from the very people you most want to influence for change. 

Outrage wears you down and can literally make you sick. When we let ourselves get so angry and afraid that we can barely see straight, it is an activation of our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response. I won’t nurse out on you too bad here, but this cascade releases hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol into our bodies. This is great news if you are calmly walking down the street and a bear or a clown jumps out of the bushes and you need to run the heck away before you get eaten. But the chronic activation of these hormones due to ongoing and never-ending stress results in an array of negative health outcomes, leading to poor sleep, weight gain, anxiety and depression, impaired immune function, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

The clickbait title here would be simple. “Warning: your outrage is making you fat!”


We tell ourselves that our outrage is punishing the thing/person/injustice we are mad about. But it isn't. They can't feel your outrage. They don't feel your anger and your tears. But you know who does? You do. You aren't punishing anyone but yourself.

The good news here is that you have a choice. All you have to do is ask yourself two questions.

1. What do you want to accomplish in the world?
2. How do you want to feel while you are accomplishing it?

You can change the world and feel happy and inspired. You can recognize the bad things that happen in our world and yet feel excited because you are so awesome you are going to do something about it. You can talk with people who are hypocrites and liars and feel invigorated because you are being challenged to improve your debating skills while practicing being able to stay calm and extending them an offer to maybe see things a little differently. 

If you feel lost and hopeless, it is just because you haven’t yet given yourself a goal. Once you decide what you want, you will start seeing lots of options on what you can do to get there. Next, make sure you are picking the path that is going to best allow you to feel the way you want to feel.

Your feelings are always your choice. No one comes along and injects you with a big syringe of emotion that you are obligated to feel. You get to decide on how you want to see the world and what you make it mean and how you want to experience it. 

They are not the boss of your feelings. You are. Choose wisely.


Robb Hillman Life Coach for Nurses light a candle

Decide who you want to be. Decide if you want to be beat down and afraid, or if you want to find a way to feel hope again.

Ben Franklin said it best: Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle. 

If you aren’t ready yet to give up on what you are feeling today - and I can't emphasize this enough - that is totally fine! You will get no feeling-shaming from me. All of your emotions are natural and normal and you have every right to feel them fully for as long as you want. 

All I’m offering is a reminder that you are not a slave to them. You are not trapped. You are not stuck. You can honor the feelings you have, and you can also look for ways to feel better at the same time. 

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

OK, that was totally a geeky 80’s Ferris Bueller reference. And I stand by it. 

If you haven't signed up for my weekly newsletter (getting 20 of my best nursing memes in the process) you can DO SO HERE.

R.N. Q&A #9: My DON says I'm "rude", but I'm just asking questions

Life Coaching for nurses Robb Hillman

Dear Robb,

I've been informed that I don't take orders well, that I'm "defiant" and "rude". This is coming from my DON and other staff, NOT by my patients. I really feel like all I do is ask questions, I'm a free thinker and I don't blindly follow orders, instead I politely question. When I am questioned on why I do things a certain way I explain my logic. I really need some advice. "To kill the part of myself that allows me to feel alive so that can survive, is really worth living?" -unknown


Dear Sam,

As a coach, often my first job is to help people figure out what exactly is the problem that you most want to solve. It sounds like you want two things here - one is that you want to be a "free thinker" who questions things. The other is that you want to get along with others, at least well enough to do your job effectively and not be in danger of getting disciplined or censured.

My guess is that both things are possible, if you can find the balance between the two.

You might want to spend some time thinking about how you build relationships with others. The importance of this can't be understated, because nursing is a team-based environment and every day we rely on our peers for success. There is nothing, of course, morally wrong with asking a lot of questions. But there is a difference between asking for new information and asking a question that forces someone else to defend themselves, their actions or their practice. And if you haven't yet build good relationships with the people you are asking to constantly defend themselves to you, your questions may come across as arrogant and rude and tiring, even if you do not intend them to.

One easy thing to try - start handing out compliments like candy. If you are going to question things you have a problem with, make sure you are also commenting and validating the things you see that you do like. "I really liked the way you handled that patient." "Thanks so much for helping me to understand this." "I really appreciate how efficiently you completed that task." I don't mean to give out insincere compliments, because that won't feel right to you or to them. But instead of just noticing and commenting on the problems, start paying attention to the good things people do too. I think you might be surprised just how well this can help build up your relationships so that people can then tolerate your questions without feeling attacked. We all want to feel respected and appreciated.

There is that Maya Angelou quote about how people don't remember what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Give them the opportunity to love having you around, and I bet you will start seeing a big difference in how people perceive you. 

Good luck!


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE.

Binge eating media - SELF CARE FOR NURSES #18

How many hours of TV do you watch a day?

How long do you spend on social media every day?

How much time do you spend consuming "news" programs and content?

Most of us would have very little idea.

And yet time is the most precious commodity we have. Why aren't we more deliberate with how we spend it?

Are the things we are spending it on giving us anything worthwhile in return?


Pay attention to the media you are consuming. Ask yourself these questions:

Is the content empowering you to have the life and experience you want to have?
What is the ratio of truth vs the perspective you want to hear?
What are they selling? Is it something you want to buy?

TV, social networks, and websites aren't inherently bad. Just make sure that the exchange you are making - your time and money and attention in trade for their content - is a trade that works out in your favor.

Consume your media with purpose. Don't just binge on it. 

Self Care for Nurses Robb Hillman

Do you love your job? - SELF CARE FOR NURSES #17

Nurses love helping our patients create goals for themselves. 

They will get out of bed and walk twice a day. They will use the incentive spirometer ten times an hour. They will limit their sugar and salt intake. 

But what about you? What is your goal when it comes to your job? 

There isn't a blood test you can take that will tell you whether you love your job or not. 

It is a choice, that you make, based on a variety of factors that you decide are important. 

We can't control all aspects of our job, but we can control what we are looking for, and what we are working towards. 

What are you working towards?


Decide what you want.

Start looking at what is getting in the way of you getting what you want.

Are there things you can change?

Would it be helpful to shift your focus?

Have you been doing everything you can to get what you want?

Help yourself get what you want. What will it take? What can you do? Put yourself in control.

Good luck!



R.N. Q&A #8: My hospital has crazy high turnover...

Nurse life coaching

Dear Robb,

The hospital that I work at has CRAZY high turnover. Literally we have flipped our entire critical care and step down units in the past year. The situation is so desperate that we even have brand new baby nurses right out of school "precepting" new grads now. It's so dangerous to say the least. I hate to say it but the nurses who are precepting haven't had nearly enough time to be able to take a step back and even fully get the big picture themselves.

I believe the management must be aware but are acting out of desperation. What can I do?? I have offered to be a resource person, to orient, etc. Even though step down is not my floor I am willing to cross over to help make the orientation process more effective. No one has listened. They never listen and I'm so worried about pt safety and not to mention these nurses' licenses that they probably aren't thinking about at this point.

How can I make them all understand how desperate this situation is? 

Thanks, Fran

Dear Fran,

I remember years ago watching a TV movie about a meteor hitting Houston (because I love disaster movies). In one scene a brand new nurse came to a hospital and there were injured patients everywhere, and she was totally overwhelmed and said "I can't help them all, I don't know what to do!" and her more experienced friend led her to a patient and said "But you can help this person. Just keep helping one more person."

It sounds like you are overwhelmed, as are, I assume, most of the other nurses you are working with. Wanna guess what one of the #1 emotions that leads to nurse burnout is? 

Wanting to help others is a great thing, it is why most of us became nurses in the first place. But I'd suggest that if you are feeling responsible for every other nurse and every other patient at your facility, you are going to burn yourself out and that isn't going to help anyone. 

This is going to sound funny at first, but stay with me here.

You are not responsible for the other nurses. You are not responsible for their education, or their licenses, or their patients. You are not responsible for what Administration understands or doesn't understand.

Your job, as I see it, is to take care of yourself so well that you can then take excellent care of the patients that you are assigned to.

Now, if you take care of yourself so well that you still have more to give, and I mean from a solid foundation of abundance not from a place of fear or worry or desperation, then by all means there are things you can do to help the hospital and patients and the other nurses. But do them because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. The difference there is so important. One will make you feel great, and the other will continue to wear you down. 

You can't make anyone understand anything. Whether they are blind to the situation or are purposely ignoring it, focusing on making someone else do something is the hardest task you can give yourself, because at the end of the day they are in control of the outcome, not you. 

You have to take care of yourself before you are going to be able to help others. Your battery has to be full before you can give your energy to others.

Instead of focusing on how bad things are and all the nightmares that could happen, try focusing on how you can be the most badass nurse you can be, leading a full, vibrant life, taking amazing care of your patients, helping your peers, and going home every day feeling confident and satisfied that you put in a good days work as someone who helps people. Be a leader by example. Show the other nurses what is possible. Because that is the path that will keep you loving your job, and the longer you love your job, the more patients and peers you can help. 

Hope this helps! :-)


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE.

R.N. Q&A #7: Should I leave nursing?

nurse questions life coach

Dear Robb,

I'm a nurse with diagnosed Bipolar Type 2. I just finished my orientation period on a busy women's health floor at a major hospital. I asked for more orientation time but was told they couldn't give me any. I'm finding it to be too much: the staffing ratios, the pace, the expectations. My manager yelled at me recently at the nurse's station in front of employees and pts because a form was not signed by a family before leaving. I had not even been told the form existed.

What would you advise that I do? Should I stay there? Leave nursing? Is there somewhere else in nursing that's pace is better paced for someone with BPD? Thank you! I forgot to mention that the incident with my manager triggered an episode that lasted for a couple of days. I see a doctor for my BPD and am compliant with my medical treatment.

Thank you,


Dear Celia,

As a coach, one of my biggest jobs is to help people get what they want. So when people ask me what they should do, that is a big clue that they don’t yet know what they want. There is nothing wrong with this, life is a journey and we learn and grow and change our minds as we go. But sometimes when things get hard, we can get stuck. We start to think that there is a “right” answer and a “wrong” answer, and we are afraid of making the wrong choice. So we don’t choose. Instead of working towards our goals, we end up just reacting to things as they happen to us, floating through life in a sea of confusion, uncertainty and fear. 

Hint: most of us don’t find this place to be very enjoyable. 

When you ask me if you should be a nurse or not, how does that feel? How would things be different if you already knew the answer to that question? 

The truth is, I can’t answer that question for you. Even if I knew you I still wouldn’t know what was going to be best for you. The answer has to come from you. The good news though, is that often getting clarity on these kinds of questions isn’t as hard as we think it is. 

Ask yourself this very basic question.

Do you want to be a nurse?

Think about it, and answer honestly.

If your answer is no, then great! We just need to problem solve to figure out a good transition into something else. 

If your answer is yes, then great! We just need to problem solve to figure out how to find a job that will fit your needs.

Either way, by identifying what it is that you want, what the goal is, now instead of feeling lost and confused and overwhelmed, we can now create a detailed plan to get us the thing we want. In my opinion, this is a lot more empowering. 

For the purposes of this example, I am going to assume you want to be a nurse.

Next question: Do you want to keep the job that you have?

If your answer is no, then great! We just need to problem solve to find a different position, a different specialty, a different setting, a different shift, whatever it is that needs to change so that you can love your job instead of dreading it. Asking about different specialties is a great place to start just to start to get an idea of all the options you have as a nurse.

If your answer is yes, then great! We just need to problem solve to figure out how you can love this job, exactly as it is.

Now this can be a little challenging, because often we want to answer with conditions. “Well, I want to love this job, but in order for that to happen then my boss needs to change and my co-workers need to change and my patient load needs to change. And then it will be perfect.”

Instead, I would ask you to figure out what needs to happen in order for you to love this job exactly as it is.

Because you don’t really have control over how your boss behaves, or what the census is like. Yes, there are things you can do - good communication, setting boundaries, etc, but ultimately whether they listen to you and make the changes you want is up to them, not up to you, so while this can be a tactic to help, as long as your happiness is dependent on the actions of others you are setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. Instead I’d suggest focusing on the things YOU can do to help your situation, since you do have control over that.

So really, what can you do right now that would help you succeed at this job? Can you ask your boss to review all of the important paperwork with you? Can you practice the more common skills and tasks you are asked to perform? Can you read up on the more common diagnoses you see so that you feel more comfortable? What would it take for you to become an expert nurse on that floor? Are you able to take those steps that would be needed to give you the result that you want?

As far as your mental health goes, besides the obvious of always following up with your doctor, I would tell you the same thing I tell everyone - if you want to be a nurse, you HAVE to learn how to take care of yourself.

And I don’t mean treating yourself to extra dessert after a hard day. I mean learning how to fill your soul up so full that you have the reserves to deal with it when things get hard.

I know this is easier to say than to do, especially for nurses for some reason, but the alternative is burnout and martyrdom, and I would not recommend either. 

So to sum up: decide what you want. And then problem solve to figure out how to get what you want. Breaking it down into a plan can eliminate a lot of unnecessary suffering by giving a light at the end of the tunnel. Make the most of it!


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE

R.N. Q&A #6: How do I pick a specialty?

Nurse questions

Dear Robb,

I am excited to say I am getting close to graduating nursing school, but I’m not sure what kind of nurse I want to be when I grow up. Throughout my rotations I have yet to find a specific "specialty" that takes my breath away or makes me feel like Wow! I want to do this! Is this normal?

I figured if anything I would start on tele as a new nurse. Everyone says to start on Med Surg, but I’m not too excited about that. I am interested in the ED, but I'm not sure if I have the inner confidence to take on that specialty.

How do I make sure I choose the right path?

Thanks, Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,

This is a great question, and I’m going to be really annoying by answering it with some questions of my own. Because that’s just how us life coaches roll. ::wink::

Do you think you are normal for asking this question?

Do you think there is only one specialty that you could possibly be happy working on?

Do you think if you make the “wrong” choice that you will have to be miserable?

Do you think it is your job’s responsibility to “take your breath away”? And if it doesn’t, then does that mean something is wrong?

To be clear, I think you are pretty normal. In fact, I had exactly the same question when I was finishing school. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Just like you, I was worried that I might make the wrong choice, and wasted a lot of time and energy worrying about it, but here is what I realized:

If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, then, just maybe, there is no wrong choice.

I could have done anything and I would have learned from it. At my first job, I learned about things I liked, I learned about things I was good at, and yes, I learned about things I didn’t like so much. 

One of the best parts about being a nurse is that you have a ridiculous amount of options. Not just different specialties, but different settings and different roles. Maybe you will get one job and work there for the next 40 years, and that could be great. But it is just as possible that over your career you might have five different jobs, or twenty. 

Maybe there are no wrong choices, just different choices. 

What would happen if you ended up working on Med Surg? (which from your question seems to be the worst case scenario.) Would you learn anything? Would the nursing experience you gained help you or hurt you in the long run? 

Would you have to be miserable because your socks weren’t getting blown off as you learned how to deal with boring old chest pain and routine surgery preps and run of the mill blood draws and wound care and foley insertions and drip calculations and patient education and foundational skill building and time management and team building? 

Or would you be able to leverage the opportunity to learn and grow and excel, to use it to build a foundation that would support you in any other role you ever end up taking to be an even more exceptional and awesome and totally happy nurse?

There is no blood test you can take that is going to tell you what specialty to work in. The only thing that makes a choice right or wrong is how you decide to think about it.

So, maybe, decide there is no wrong choice. 

Then you can make the choice you think will be best for you (Tele? Great! ER? Fantastic!), knowing that no matter what you are going to learn a ton of things, and that you can always change your mind and change your job later if it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. 

Whatever you choose, I hope you will also choose to be happy about your choice. It is powerful way to live your life.

Good luck, and have fun!


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE.


We all belong to tribes. 

Our race. Our sex. Our marital status. Our religious and political affiliation.

And I'm guessing most of you reading this belong to the tribe of nurses and nursing students. 

Some of those students got kicked out of the tribe recently when their school closed down, and they were left with nothing.

This loss of tribe identity can be bewildering and frightening and painful.

But you are not alone.


Nurses utilize their resources. If you are in pain, find someone to help. Find someone to listen. We are all around you. Friends, family, Facebook groups, coaches, therapists, doctors. If you are angry and need to vent, there is someone to help you. If you are confused about what to do next, there is someone to help you. If you are struggling to function, there is someone to help you.

Do not be a martyr. Get the help you need, because that is what nurses do. 

Do not make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.

You are not alone. You never were. 


self care for nurses life coaching



Arguing with the past - SELF CARE FOR NURSES #15

So life has thrown you a curveball. (Perhaps like having your nursing school close down halfway through your last semester.)

You feel angry. 

You feel helpless.

You don't know what to do next.

This can be a challenge, even for us life coaches. 

The truth though is that this is a part of the human experience. Things happen. To all of us.

The good news is that we aren't defined by what happens to us, but by how we react when it happens. 

We can't control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. 


If you are finding yourself have a lot of conversations about what "should" have happened, notice it. Ask yourself if that conversation is helping you move forward, or if it is keeping you anchored in and arguing with the past. 

If you are tempted to give up, or to change course dramatically, ask yourself why. If you are using updated information to make an even better choice for your future, that is one thing. But notice if you are punishing yourself under the guise of punishing someone else. (Which is also called cutting off your nose to spite your face.)

And above all - take care of yourself! Transitions can be hard under the best of circumstances. Fill yourself up. Get support. Take care of yourself as if you were your own patient. Eat good food. Get enough sleep. Move your body. Love on your family and your friends and yourself. 

If this is a test the universe is giving you, why don't you just go ahead and ace it? Show it what you're made of.

Good luck!

Self care for nurses life coaching

R.N. Q&A #5: I have a highly abusive patient

Nurse Life Coaching

Dear Robb,

I'm a home health nurse and I'm struggling. I have a highly abusive client. She is rude, calls me horrible names, and refuses to let me lift her properly. She's fully aware of what she's doing (no dementia). I'm so frustrated. No matter how nice I am she's still mean as the Dickens. Any advice on how to win her over? 

Thanks, Sarah

Dear Sarah,

This sounds like a tough situation! Of course your first task is safety, and I would go through all of your protocols to ensure the care you are providing is safe, both for your client as well as yourself. 

But from a coaching perspective, one issue I see is that your question is "how can I win her over". I'd suggest that you have no control over what she thinks of you, or how she chooses to act, so if that is what you are focusing on, you are likely to remain very frustrated and helpless. You'll be happy if she is nice, you'll be frustrated when she isn't. But you can't make her be nice, you can't make her like you. With that goal, you have empowered her instead of you over how you feel at work. You will try X, and then wait and see if that works to get her to like you. Then you will try Y, and wait to see if that works. You are the one doing all the work, and she is in control over whether you succeed or fail.

What would happen if instead you focused on you, and what you want out of this relationship? If your goal is to like your job, or to be an excellent caregiver, or to know you have tried everything possible to establish rapport - those are things that are under your control. Whether she responds or changes - or not - has no effect on how you achieve these goals. As long as you are focused on yourself you are likely to be a lot more successful. Because then it won't matter what she does, you can always respond as you need to in order to protect yourself (as well as her) as is required to get the job done in a safe and professional manner.

Remember, her choices are not about you, they are all about her. Maybe she is sick, maybe she is hurting, maybe she is just mean. Whatever the reason, don’t personalize her behavior. Kudos to you for being a person who is trying to help her, despite herself. And maybe the gift she is giving you is the realization that you are a badass who can deal with anything. Nursing is hard, BUT YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question for me you can SUBMIT IT HERE.


What kind of person do you want to be? - SELF CARE FOR NURSES Ep. 14

We nurses ask a lot of questions.

"When was the last time you took this medication?"

"When was the last time you smoked?"

"When was the last time you pooped?"

But sometimes we need to ask ourselves questions. 

To be aware of what we want and, importantly, what we are going to do about it.


Pay attention to the things you say you want. Are you waiting for them? Do you keep putting them off? Are you waiting for someone else to change, or for the "right time"?

And then ask yourself: Do you want to be the kind of person who wants that goal, or do you want to be the person who achieved it? 

Self Care for Nurses

Shame as a weapon - SELF CARE FOR NURSES, Ep. 13

Do you think of yourself as a person who would use shame as a weapon? 

In this video I talked about how sometimes we try to mask our shame in humor. 

Sometimes we don't even bother.

Have you ever heard had a bully ask you "How did you even get through nursing school?"

Have you ever said "You better get a thicker skin if you want to work here."

How about the exasperated (and totally unhelpful) "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???"

These are all shame-based comments. They are designed to hurt the person we are talking to. 

You may agree with my examples, you may not. If you want to find exceptions for how these comments could be totally innocent, I'm sure you can find them. I encourage you, however, to consider what I am saying.


Be aware of your words. Be aware of your intent. You get to decide what is right and wrong for you, but make it be a choice, not an afterthought. Not something you get defensive about afterwards. Decide who the person is that you want to be, and make the things you do support that vision. 

We all make mistakes. Even me! I've been called out for some of the jokes I've shared on the Facebook page, for reasons I hadn't even considered before I shared them. And that's ok. I don't have to go on a rant about how people are "just too sensitive these days", because true or not, that doesn't help me be the person I want to be.

Start getting clear about where you are headed in life, because if you can master that, magical things start to happen. 

Self care for nurses 013

R.N. Q&A #4: I need a change

Nurse Life Coaching

Dear Robb,

I need a change, I am an alcoholic I think the BON is going to mandate an intervention project and I don't know that I want to be a nurse. I have a lot of areas that need healing. My dream would be to be a wellness and fitness trainer.  No clues where to turn or what to do.

Thanks, Chloe

Dear Chloe,

It sounds like you have a lot going on. Without knowing the details, here is what I would offer you.

1. Take a breath, and know that you are ok, and that you can do this. Nursing is hard. Dealing with addiction is hard. Heck, sometimes just being a person in the world is hard. The fact that it is hard doesn't mean anything has gone wrong. It just means you are being challenged to grow and adapt and become someone stronger.

2. It would be understandable if you were feeling overwhelmed right now. But if you are going to make choices that are going to affect the rest of your life, you might want to consider grounding yourself first. Overwhelm, frustration, fear - these are normal feelings we all have, but they are not a great foundation from which to build a better life, or to end a career on. I have no idea if you should stick to nursing or try something new, only you can know which is going to give you the life you want to have. But I'd caution you to make that decision from a position of strength, not to run away from your challenges, but to stand tall as the person you are. It is a very different thing to say "This is hard and uncomfortable so I'm just going to do something easier" than to say "This is hard and uncomfortable, and I know I could get through it and be happy at this job again. And I'd rather do something else."

3. You are not alone. We all need help sometimes, all of us. Heck, I love making life-altering changes every so often, and even though I love it sometimes I need support to get through the uncertainties and challenges that come up. And that's ok. So let people help you. A friend, a therapist, a program, a coach. Whatever it is that you need. There is no glory in being a martyr.

4. Lastly, and this is a really coachy answer, but I'd recommend getting clear on what exactly it is that you want. Sometimes we get caught in a mind-trap where we just want things to be easy. Then when they aren't, we get frustrated and withdraw and are miserable. Do you want to love being a nurse? Do you want to stop drinking? Do you want to heal old hurts and feel empowered and strong and confident? If you could have anything you wanted, what would you want? If you can get clear on that, then all you have to do is start doing the things that will get you there. Choosing your goal can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. It might not be as easy as we wish it were, but don't underestimate how helpful it can be to know what direction you want to steer towards.

I hope this is helpful! If you have questions we can always jump on the phone, I offer free 30-minute coaching calls. CLICK HERE to find a time on my calendar that would work for you.

Life can be hard. But you are a nurse. You can do hard things.


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question, you can SUBMIT IT HERE.


R.N. Q&A #3: How can I pass this class?

Nurse Coaching Questions

Dear Robb,

I have been a LPN for 36 years. I have been earning my pre-reqs at a local community college. My problem. I cannot seem to get a grip on my A&P class. I've failed twice. I've had to drop twice. I'm always the oldest student in my class. I've had health issues the past 2 years (cancer). I really want my RN. I I've never felt so discouraged and unsure of myself. How can I pass this class without the nervousness?

Thanks, Rose

Dear Rose,

Firstly, I want to give you credit for how well you are asking your question. When we get challenged, often in our frustration we end up asking questions with a negative slant.  “Why is this so hard” or “Why am I having so much trouble with this” or “Why does this keep happening to me”. Instead you asked a positive question “How can I pass this class?” and then you made it even better by adding what I think is a really powerful qualifier at the end - “How can I pass this class without the nervousness?” Well done, Rose, well done.

The great thing is that once we start asking questions, our brains will start looking for answers. If you ask a negative questions, "Why is this so hard for me?", then your brain is going to find answers to that. And if you ask a positive, solution-oriented question (like you have), it gives your brain permission to get creative and start figuring it out.

So you are totally on the right track, we just need to keep going until we find an answer.

Now, unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I’m not a mind-reader, and I’m not sure what the answer is that is going to be the most helpful for you. All I can do is offer a brainstorm of guesses to get your brain going, and it will be up to you to evaluate them as possible solutions or to let them spark your own creative ideas. But since we have clearly identified your goal - passing the class without being nervous - this process becomes much less emotionally fraught and much more focused on finding a practical strategy that will work for you.

So what do you think it will take? Studying more, maybe with set hours every week? Finding a study group? Do you learn better writing things out or talking them out? I remember I had an anatomy coloring book that really helped me remember things. Could you talk with the instructor and get their advice? (They are going to be able to tell you exactly what they expect of you.) I always learn best by teaching, do you have a friend or a dog or maybe a photo of your friend’s dog that you could explain everything to after you study? What if you took fewer classes this semester so you could focus getting over this block? There is no denying it is a lot of information, but in your experience how do you best learn? What will it take for you to be able to learn and retain all of that information?

Let’s take it one step further - what would it take for you to be at the top of the class? How hard would you have to work to get 100% on everything the entire semester, and how willing are you to work that hard? That may not ultimately really be your goal, nor does it need to be. But ask yourself, what would it take? If you can answer that question, then it should be easy to dial it back a little if your real goal is a little less ambitious. Figure out what you need to do so that passing that class becomes inevitable. It will take effort, but think how good it will feel when it is done. If this is something you really want, then make sure that passing the class this time is not optional. Make it the priority, and make it happen.

And the really good news is that if you start coming to class not only prepared, but overly prepared, the nervousness is going to fade away all on it’s own.

But just to address it a little, here is what I’ve found about the emotions we don’t want to feel. If you focus on getting the nervousness to go away, to try to squelch it or ignore it or bottle it up, it will probably only get worse. That's just how our brains work. And why is being nervous so bad? It is a pretty normal and common feeling. What if it is ok to be nervous sometimes? What if you acknowledge that it is there, doing it’s thing, and decide that it’s ok? If you think it is a problem, it is going to be a distraction. But if you just let it be, knowing it is a normal part of the human experience, meanwhile focusing on getting prepared for the classwork, I bet the nervousness is going to abate without you really having to do anything about it.

I know you can do this. And, more importantly, it seems so do you. After all you’ve been through, you are still here, you are still trying to make it work. You haven’t given up because deep down you know you can do it. Like most nurses, you are optimist at heart, which is a pretty badass superpower to have. You know the goal, so get clear on your strategy to learn what you need to learn. And you are gonna pass this class, feeling proud and strong and empowered.

Thank you for the question, I hope this helps!


Note: Questions are edited for privacy and clarity. I aim to be HIPAA compliant! ::wink:: If you have a question you can SUBMIT IT HERE.