Keith Carlson of Digital Doorway 

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is an award-winning nurse blogger, freelance writer, nurse podcaster, and expert career coach for nurses and healthcare professionals.

We recently checked in with Keith to learn about some of the challenges nurses face today and how technology can both help and hinder them. Here’s what he had to say:

Can you talk about your interest in coaching nurses? How did this become a passion?

As a nurse blogger and freelance writer, I realized a dire need among nurses for holistic career coaching. It also had to take all aspects of a nurse’s personal and professional life into account. Having been a nurse for several decades, I felt I was qualified to help nurses create careers that were both personally and professionally satisfying.

Once I became a Board Certified Nurse Coach through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation, I felt confident bringing my expertise throughout the English-speaking world. I believed that through leadership and coaching skills, I could change lives and enhance nurses’ careers.

How has nursing evolved since you started your career?

I began my nursing career in the mid-1990s. One of the most significant nursing and healthcare changes has been technology advancement, including clinical technology and the digital worlds. Meanwhile, nurses’ roles have expanded, from the broader scope of practice for APRNs and nurse practitioners to nurses striking out into entrepreneurship.

From where you stand, what are the most critical issues facing nursing today?

Nurses must grapple with changing technology, and they must also face the fact that the necessary skillsets for the job market are in flux. With a rapidly aging population, nurses have to learn more about the older generation and their needs. Also, we must maintain awareness of generational differences between the three generations of nurses currently in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millenials.

As the scope of practice expands, nurses need to hold their ground against some physicians and medical administrators who would like nurses to fit back into a nice little box. In the post-pandemic world, it simply won’t be possible. Not to mention, if we advocate for ourselves and the legislative level, we can push back against the forces seeking to diminish our roles and keep us in subservient positions.

Let’s face it, the nurses can do almost anything, including working far away from the classic hospital setting, and the current pandemic has been proving it every day.

What do you feel could be the most critical issues the nurses are facing today?

Burnout is rampant. Staffing issues, complex nurse-patient ratios, hospital consolidation, and other economic factors are powerful influencers of nurses and apparent causes of burnout. Nurses are often asked to do more and more with fewer resources, so we have to fight against the trends that squeeze the lifeblood from our careers and hearts.

Bullying is also rampant in nursing across the generations, and many nurses leave the profession after being treated poorly by colleagues. We must eradicate bullying and create more civility in the workplace. We also must mentor and nurture our new nurses; they are the future of the profession, and if we don’t welcome them with open arms and mentor them conscientiously, they won’t stay long in this field.

When nurses feel that they must spend more of their time documenting than actually caring for patients, they can feel disenchanted and cut off from why they became nurses in the first place.

There don’t seem to be enough Med/Surg jobs to go around, so non-acute care employers need to hire and mentor new nurses who lack hospital experience and nurture their professional development.

Finally, nursing schools are not doing such a good job preparing new nurses for the realities of the clinical world. But if the schools don’t do it, somebody has to. That is why employers need to create more new graduate nurse residency programs that allow new nurses a gentle entryway into practice.

What are some of the challenges facing nurses in small practices specifically?

Small practices can be challenging. There could be a lack of resources in some milieus, as well as a lack of exposure to experiences contributing to nurses’ success and professional development. While a nurse may feel lost in a big teaching hospital, they may also feel confined by a small practice setting where their professional growth is not challenged.

What should nurses be doing to help overcome these challenges?

Nurses need to seek out the experiences that they feel could be beneficial to the type of career they chose. There is no cookie-cutter career advice, and nurses need to be proactive and assertive in creating opportunities for themselves. Networking, personal branding, career development are all great tools for working on their individual goals as healthcare professionals.

What types of technology or services can improve patient care as well as offer relief from over-burdened nurses?

Nurses have a higher rate of on-the-job injury than construction workers. That said, there are fewer protections for nurses than those in other professions and trades. Employers need to invest in the technologies that preclude nurses from injuring themselves and becoming disabled when caring for patients.

Many technologies are currently in development to assist nurses and the healthcare teams in streamlining and improving nursing care. Nurses themselves can also get involved in the development of cutting-edge nurse-centric technologies. Their input would be priceless.

What is the value of answering services for nurses?

Answering services can provide nurses with varying opinions and ease the administrative aspect of communications with their patients. Using the answering service would be one way of getting from behind the computer to interact with the actual patient. Such services can provide answers and resources that point us in the right direction.

What, if any, reservations do you have about how new technology is being used in healthcare today?

Technology can indeed create a divide between us and our patients. At times, we are so busy behind the laptops that we fail to see the patient right in front of us. This way, patient care becomes more mechanical and less of human art. We need to maintain our ability to touch patients, spend time with them, hold their hands, look in their eyes, and not allow technology to become a barrier to connection.

What trends or headlines are you following closely today? What are you excited about?

I am excited about the burgeoning community of nurse entrepreneurs and business owners and how they push the boundaries. We have nurse artists, filmmakers, podcasters, writers, and so many others who are forging new nurses’ paths. I am also excited by the breadth and depth of clinical practice, the expansion of autonomy for advanced practice nurses. I love seeing how nurses continue to be the connective tissue, heart, and lifeblood of healthcare worldwide.

If you would like to find out more about how answering service can help in nurses’ communications with patients, please call Answering365 for a free consultation at 888-588-9800