The No. 1 Key To Success As A Nurse

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

There is a lot of advice out there about how you should enter, develop and progress in nursing.

Do you get your feet wet by simply gaining some “field” experience before transferring to a specialty like Emergency, Critical Care, or the Operating Room?

What about pursuing an advanced degree? What are the qualities you should acquire and maintain to stay sharp? How do you avoid burnout? Where is the best place to work? What about workplace bullying? Nurses eat their young, right?

The list is long and the questions are never-ending  And, quite honestly, there is never a simple answer, or a single correct answer.

Over the years, I think I’ve finally figured it out: I found that “one thing” that matters. I found that “one thing” that can ensure you don’t get bogged down with the rhetoric and negativity. What is it?


Being honest is the key to success in this profession. And I’m talking global honesty across every facet of your job.

Be honest with your patients

  • If you don’t know something, admit it. It’s okay to share stories with them. It’s okay to be human. It’s nurses’ genuine nature that keeps patients voting us the most trusted profession every year.

Be honest with your coworkers

  • Don’t pull a fast one on the very people you’ll be relying on to pull you through that hellish shift. But don’t be a pushover. Be honest. Be genuine. You may be a little more vulnerable, but the reward you get always outweighs the risk.

Be honest with management

  • This goes hand-in-hand with coworker honesty. Take care of those who will take care of you. Even if it’s the worst boss in the world, hate and evil just beget more hate and evil. I truly believe that honesty always wins out.

Be honest with your physician partners

  • Respect has to be earned, not just expected. I have learned over the years to be honest about your skills, your knowledge and your performance with your physician partners–they will respect your honesty more than any lie you can tell. Don’t try to fool the very professionals who are your biggest supporters.

Be honest with yourself

  • Not happy with your job? Change it. Not happy with your position? Change it. Don’t let anyone convince you that your situation is not in your control. We work in the greatest profession I know. You have an unlimited number of opportunities–you just have to be enough of a forward-thinker to go find them.

Be honest. Now, remember, I never said being honest was easy. Just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean it’s popular. Be honest, but be strong. You will find that being honest is tough, so hang in there and don’t succumb to the pressure of dishonesty.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. Glad to have found this article and read comments that support my belief. Although I’ve been “punished” for being honest, I prefer to stick to my belief system. I’ve been faced with management that would encourage lying just to make clients and family believe that they have everything perfectly controlled. And I know with certainty of management willing to pay big $ to someone in exchange to testify falsely against some co-worker, in order to get rid of that person, whom they didn’t have a solid reason to fire.

  2. A seed of mistrust will grow to a forest of questioning….your integrity, the soundness of your advice, your likelihood to be promoted, the longevity of your employment, etc. etc. etc.

  3. I believe in honesty with kindness and tact, in all aspects of my life, career and otherwise. I always tease I am not smart enough to lie, you have to keep track of all those lies! But it’s just a joke….I am honest because it is the right thing to do and it really works out for the best….always!

  4. Fully agree. I’ve been working as a nurse for 50+ years and one consistent remark about me has always been “trustworthy”…”people (patients) trust you”… It took me a long time to realize how that conclusion was derived and what it meant. When I’m working I have no hidden or personal agenda: just want to do the best that I can for the patients, families, and organization, realizing that everything I do can reflect on nursing in general. It reinforced that nursing is a profession, not just a job, and part of that is to build fences, advocate, and mentor. I have been so incredibly lucky throughout my career to be surrounded by good people who have taught me the way-even if I didn’t agree, I look back and see I always learned something from them.
    Evelyn Prejean MSN

  5. I feel very satisfied with the nursing care I have provided for 25 years. I know how the politics and favoritism works in the majority of jobs; but in Nursing, giving our best care with genuine concern about patients overall well-being, is the most important thing, that regardless of the salary, rewards our spirit with the sense of doing right before GOD and our fellow human beings.

  6. I totally agree. I am officially retiring this month after 31 1/2 years and that has been my key to success. I loved my career and wouldn’t change it for anything. Very rewarding and I learned a lot but most of all I was successful because I did the right thing. Thank you for posting this.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Top 10 Nursing Lessons From Your Mentors

Every single nurse experiences a learning curve, and that transition from nursing student to practicing nurse can be a doozy! That’s why you need someone...

Has Nursing Taught You To Be A Better Parent?

It’s unquestionable: being a nurse influences your whole life. With such a demanding yet such an enriching job, there are many things you learn...

Commission for Case Manager Certification’s CMLearning Webinar

"Nothing about me without me" is the guiding principle of shared decision making in health care, a process that ensures the patient understands the...