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A favorite aspect of my role as a nurse leader is professional mentoring. Staff of all experience levels talk to me about their career aspirations-becoming certified, gaining specialty expertise, or continuing their education. Although I'm always supportive of professional development, I try to reinforce the perspective that any chosen career path is a journey, not a destination.
For some, the race to get ahead seems particularly intense. Maybe that's a by-product of how we're socialized from a very early age. We've all been asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Pose that question to a child and you can get some pretty amazing answers, from astronaut to queen to rock star. As we mature, most of us become more grounded in our pursuits. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we want to be that we lose the essential focus on who we want to become. And that's really the key decision that will shape our destiny.
Who we want to become is all about character, which fundamentally defines who we are. Character is founded on how we think about the world as well as our place within it. Character is manifested in our actions and our words, and is displayed for all to see in those sentinel moments of crisis, conflict, criticism, and controversy. And all the degrees, certifications, and technical skills that we may painstakingly accrue and document in our resumes won't make up for character flaws that reflect a lack of fortitude, caring, or integrity. Unfortunately, some people never figure that out-and suffer the professional consequences without ever acquiring the insight to understand why.
Character is cultivated through experiences with success and failure, barriers and struggles-how we handle them, and more significantly, how we learn from them. Without such learning, continuing maladaptive ways of dealing with challenging situations can derail even the noblest of intentions.
So, both as a profession and as individuals, we need to direct energy toward developing fine character as much as we do knowledge, skills, and credentials. Then, the inevitable hurdles that stand in front of us aren't obstacles, but character-building opportunities that enable growth.
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2010 Vice President, Emergency, Trauma, and Aeromedical Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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