Building Confidence in Nursing: 5 Key Strategies to Empower Your Career

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Podcasts, Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

Embarking on a career in nursing is like stepping onto a path that continually unfolds in unexpected and rewarding ways. Building confidence in nursing becomes as essential as the scrubs we wear along this journey. So, let’s explore the key strategies to advance your career and nurture the confidence that is the cornerstone of exemplary nursing. Let’s bring your confidence level from a 2 to a 10!

Building Confidence in Nursing: 5 Key Strategies to Empower Your Career

Balancing Fears With Objective Reality

As nurses, we’re often fueled by a potent mix of passion 🔥 and apprehension 😬, knowing that our responsibilities can significantly impact our patients and personal growth. While making a mistake can be daunting, it’s important to acknowledge these fears without allowing them to overshadow the objective reality.

The vast majority of nurses practice without encountering legal issues, and by focusing on proactive strategies, we can further ensure that our professional integrity remains intact.

I sat down with Irnise Williams, JD RN, to discuss this further. To listen to our conversation, click the play button below.

This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, PlayerFM, iHeartRadio, Libsyn, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

The RaDonda Vaught case, where a nurse was convicted of gross neglect of an impaired adult and negligent homicide, sent shockwaves through the nursing community. Nurses were terrified that they would be thrown in jail if they made an innocent mistake. How likely is it that something like this would happen again? The best way to have a balanced perspective is to be armed with facts.

(If you’d like a deep dive into the RaDonda case, click here.)

How Common Are Lawsuits For Nurses?

The realities of lawsuits and license risks for nurses are significant, but they may not be as common as one might think. If anything hinders confidence in nursing, it’s the fear of mistakes.

An analysis of malpractice claims between 2018 and 2021 revealed that 18% of the adverse events in these claims involved nursing personnel, including RNs, LPNs, nursing assistants, and nursing students. Most of these nursing-related errors occurred in inpatient settings while providing patient care in some capacity. However, it’s important to note that these statistics represent only a portion of the total nursing workforce, and most nurses do not face such legal challenges.

How Common Is It For Nurses to Lose Their Nursing License?

Now that we’ve mentioned lawsuits, let’s discuss a separate but similar topic: Formal discipline from your regulatory body (state board of nursing) and how common it is for nurses to face a disciplinary process regarding their license.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing reports that less than one percent of nurses face disciplinary action from their licensing boards each year, ranging from minor penalties to license suspension or revocation.

Essentially, the fear that someone could make an innocent mistake and lose their license as a result is extremely rare. Statistically, if 5 million nurses and up to 1% face some form of disciplinary action annually, up to 50,000 nurses could face discipline each year. However, this number includes all forms of discipline, not just license revocation, typically reserved for the most severe offenses. Revoking a nursing license entirely is not done without significant cause. Many other forms of discipline can be ordered in addition to alternative discipline options.

The likelihood of losing a license from an innocent mistake specifically would be considerably lower than this figure, as most disciplinary actions are for more significant or repeated errors. The mistake would have to be extremely egregious, ignoring many safeguards, and result in substantial harm for this to realistically happen to a nurse. While this is a possibility, it is not a probability for a nurse working safely, thinking critically, and practicing with a questioning attitude. Being aware of this and actively recalling it in times of fear can help build confidence in nursing.

Key 🔑 Point ➡️ In nursing, the possibility for harm without diligence is profound. We must take our responsibility seriously but not drown in the fear of the possibility of negative implications, as they are highly improbable for a prudent nurse.  

Appreciate the Power 💪 of Small Changes Over Time

Change need not be a sweeping revolution. The art of nursing thrives on incremental improvements that accrue over time, creating a compound effect in building confidence in nursing. Each shift is an opportunity to refine your routine and seek efficiency in the minutiae—whether it’s streamlining documentation, improving bedside manner, or mastering a new clinical skill.

Small changes are like seeds that grow 🌱 into a garden of expertise, transforming your daily practice into a smooth, well-oiled 🛢️ machine. Embrace the philosophy of continuous, small improvements and watch your confidence bloom alongside your competence.

Key 🔑 Point ➡️ Acknowledge and appreciate your tiny wins (“Hey, I finally got all my meds passed by 1000!”) and celebrate your big wins.

Self-Awareness: Noticing Your Passion 🔥

The heartbeat of your nursing career is the passion that pulsates through it. Confidence in nursing can take root in what you genuinely enjoy. Take the time to reflect on what makes your nurse’s heart sing. What do you love to do at work?

Is it the thrill of the emergency room, the meticulous nature of surgical care, or the quiet satisfaction of patient education? Identify the aspects of your job that you love—the tasks that bring a spark ⚡️ to your eye and a swiftness to your step. Then, actively seek out ways to engage more deeply in those areas.

Maybe you love rounding with providers and want to have that responsibility yourself, so you decide to research nursing programs to go back for your MSN and become an NP. Maybe you love research and policy and ask to sit on the policy committee. Perhaps you enjoy educating patients about specific disease processes, so you look into an educator role. Maybe you like being in charge of the unit and making assignments, so you ask your nurse manager if you can take a charge nurse course.

Key 🔑 Point ➡️ Take time to notice what you love, then think of ways to encounter it more often, whether that’s as big as graduate school or a more minor step like sitting on a committee.

Have The Courage to Pivot

Remember, your nursing career reflects your evolving self—never static, always learning. Permit yourself to pivot from paths that no longer resonate with your aspirations or values. It’s okay to let go of the image you once had of your future self if it no longer fits. It’s much harder to feel that confidence in nursing if you’re pursuing a goal you don’t really care about.

The beauty of nursing is its vast landscape of opportunities. It’s about discovering what genuinely resonates with you and having the courage to follow that path, wherever it may lead. So, if the unpredictability of the ER doesn’t suit you anymore, or if a newfound love for research calls your name, embrace the change. Your career is your story to write. You do not have to follow a nursing hierarchy and steamroll toward caring for the sickest patients possible.

Myself and two other experienced nurses discuss this mythical hierarchy in the podcast episode below!

I encourage you to extend the critical thinking skills you use on your patients to yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions to determine if the plan you have for your professional life coincides with what you’re doing every day. If not, again, use those phenomenal critical thinking skills to determine what you can stop doing (which is just as important of a question as what to start doing!) and practical steps you can take you optimize your career.

Key 🔑 Point ➡️ Don’t let your professional nursing career become a sunk cost fallacy. You are in charge. You can make decisions to facilitate change and build your confidence in nursing to do something meaningful to you. It’s your life!

Final Thoughts on Building Confidence in Nursing

To all the nurses out there with compassion in their eyes and determination in their hearts, know that you are not alone on this journey. Your career is a tapestry of your unique skills, passions, and experiences. Each day is a stitch in a larger picture, a narrative of growth, challenges, and triumphs.

Continue to build your confidence in nursing with each small step, stay aware of your professional desires, and be ready to pivot when new paths open before you. Lifelong learning is baked into the experience of being a professional nurse. And this learning doesn’t just include clinical skills, evidence-based practice, or pharmacology. It includes learning about yourself as you grow and mature throughout your life.

Above all, believe in yourself and your incredible impact on the lives you touch. Your nursing license is a valuable asset that you paid a lot of money for and invested a lot of time into. Let’s maximize it to benefit you and increase your confidence in nursing!

More Resources for Building Confidence In Nursing

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


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