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Students/New Nurses

Why Every Student Needs to Develop a Personal Mission Statement Before They Graduate

By May 10, 2018June 2nd, 2023No Comments

Every nursing student who graduates is about to experience reality shock once they enter the practice setting as a new nurse.

Reality shock is when the values that motivated you to become a nurse may conflict with those of your practice setting or you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for multiple patients who require care.

Transitioning to this new role with the responsibilities that can be overwhelming at times stretches new nurses in ways they never thought possible. Some days you will openly wonder why you ever wanted to be a nurse!

Some new nurses become casualties of reality shock and leave the profession in the first year because they were unable to successfully transition to real-world practice. But it does not have to be this way.

There is one simple strategy that can help you as a new nurse stay grounded and true to the calling that led you to pursue your degree to become a professional nurse.

What can be the difference between thriving and becoming roadkill once in practice? Developing a personal mission statement that identifies your why!

What is your Why?

What does the business you work for, the college you attend, and nursing programs all have in common? They all have a mission statement.


In an organization, a mission statement is used to guide the actions, spell out its overall goals, provide a path, and guide decision-making that communicates the lived purpose of an organization and in one statement captures the essence of its WHY.

For example, the healthcare organization I work for has the following mission statement:

“We serve our communities by providing excellent care as we prevent illness, restore health and provide comfort to all who entrust us with their care.”

This statement concisely captures its purpose (provide excellent care) as well as the outcome of this purpose (restore health and provide comfort).

If a mission statement is essential for an organization, have you ever thought how relevant a personal mission statement could help you stay true to why you chose to become a nurse or nurse educator?


Take a moment and reflect to remember what was your primary motivation to become a nurse.

To get started, grab a notepad and write out your answers to the following questions:

  • What inspired and motivated you to serve others as a nurse?
  • Where do you feel called to care? Is there a certain population of people or a certain disease process that you have a desire to work with?
  • What is your primary goal?
  • What do you want to accomplish as a nurse?
  • What values do you want to live out?

Student Examples

As a new nurse educator, I recognized the importance of helping my students develop a personal mission statement to help them stay grounded and in touch with their why as they struggled to adjust to the inherent challenges as a nursing student.

I had my entire class develop and write out their own personal nursing mission statement that would define and guide them as a student nurse and then use once in practice.

After it was developed and written out, I encouraged them to put it in a place such as their smartphone where they would be able to see it and review it often for encouragement and reflection when they began to wonder about their why.

Student Examples

Here is what my students developed:

  • “To be a knowledgeable and compassionate professional nurse that truly makes a difference in patients’ lives through providing holistic nursing care.”
  • “To integrate critical thinking knowledge and the nursing process to serve people in a Christ-like manner.”
  • “To be a competent and lifelong learning nurse while providing empathetic and compassionate care, maintaining honesty and integrity and being respectful of all cultures and individual choices.”

Educators…What’s Your Why?

Developing a personal mission is not just for students or nurses in practice. It is also an essential exercise for every nurse educator.

Though I pursued my passion to become an educator, it didn’t take long for me to experience numerous unexpected struggles including both faculty and student incivility that stole my joy and passion.

I began to question why I was willing to take a pay cut for this! Why am I doing this?

Then I remembered my why.

Before I took the plunge and pursued my Masters in nursing education in 2005, I was reading Wild at Heart a book by Christian author John Eldridge. This quote jumped off the page and into my heart:

Don’t do what the world needs. But do what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are men and women who have come fully alive.

Though nursing education can have its ups and downs, at the end of the day teaching is what makes me come alive and is at work but something I truly enjoy.

This powerful quote captures the essence of my why and has helped me stay grounded and passionate in all that I did in nursing education and with KeithRN.

Nightingale’s Example

Nightingale had a clear vision of her mission as a transformational nurse leader and educator.

Florence Nightingale wrote that she sensed God calling her to serve others through nursing and was guided by her calling and personal mission.

She served others sacrificially and as a result realized her personal vision of a life well lived.

Whether you are a student or nurse educator, I encourage you to have this same sense of mission, vision, and purpose that Nightingale communicated in this quote on the value of being a nurse:

“One whose life makes a great difference for all: All are better off than if she had not lived.”

In order to make a lasting difference in all that you do, you must remain engaged, empathetic, and pursue excellence in all that you do.

In Closing

Though real-world clinical practice will stretch you as a new nurse, a mission statement that describes your why will be a needed guide to keep you grounded as a new nurse in practice then be intentional to live it out.

Life is short and you have one shot to live this life well. Don’t waste it. Have a clear sense of purpose and mission.

Identify your mission as a nurse or nurse educator at the beginning of your career, then you will be able to look back at your life with no regrets knowing that like Nightingale, you too lived out your mission and vision of a life well lived and made a difference in the world as you served and cared for others as a nurse!

What is your why or mission as a nurse or nurse educator?
Take a moment and share it with others by commenting below!

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Keith Rischer – Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CEN

As a nurse with over 35 years of experience who remained in practice as an educator, I’ve witnessed the gap between how nursing is taught and how it is practiced, and I decided to do something about it! Read more…

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