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Nursing: The Fallback

A lot of people, nurses included, think in black and white. I should know, I’m someone that does. In nursing school, we learned about nursing judgment. There’s a lot of gray area with medical conditions. Someone may not be officially septic, but man, they’re trending that way fast.

So I’m always a bit confused when I see nurses using an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to their nursing license, the bedside, and writing. I’ve

seen an increase in posts lately about nurses giving up their licenses because they chose to become writers. Or, nurses being scared of leaving the bedside to write.

I’m here to tell you: You can make your cake and eat it, too. You don’t have to just be a writer, and you don’t have to be only a bedside nurse. If you want to mix-and-match your careers, you can do that! And you don’t have to give up your license if you decide to write.

So if you were confused by those posts, you came to the right place. Let’s dive into it a little deeper.

Nursing Licenses and Medical Writing

Every country, state, and province will have different requirements for maintaining their nursing license. It’s important that you know yours. If you’re not sure, you can reach out to the Board of Nursing in your state to clarify what the renewal expectations are. Some states require only continuing education credits to renew your license. Other states may require that you use your license by working a set number of hours.

In my state, we only need to complete continuing education requirements. Nurses don’t need to work a set number of hours to renew our licenses. So, I can use my nursing license to be a writer, as long as I keep up with my educational requirements.

In other states, some nurses may have to work a set number of hours over a time period. There’s usually a minimal threshold they need to cross over. But, most of the time states don’t specify if the work needs to be clinical or otherwise. Nurse managers are able to maintain their licenses without

I’m only going to speak about states, because I’m from the United States. I have worked closely with a nurse from Canada. When we talked about license renewal, she confirmed that she doesn’t need to work at the bedside to use her license. She just needs to use her license in any way. Nursing is so much more than bedside work.

Part-time Options

I was at the bedside part-time for the first several years of my writing career. In fact, that’s my advice for everyone! I don’t think anyone should really start a brand new business venture and jump off their stable cliff into the unknown. Sure it’s cooler to look like you’re a full time writer right away, but cool doesn’t pay my mortgage.

So, I juggled a few days a week as a nurse and several deliverables a month. I

did this for years while I was trying to build up my portfolio. It also helped me with the ebb and flow of freelancing. Some weeks, I would have tons of clients! But other weeks, my contracts would end, and I’d be searching again. With time, this cycle did seem to even out. But if I had just quit my nursing job right away, I’m sure I would have been really stressed trying to manage my bills and my mental health.

I recommend tapering your writing up, while stepping back from your daily job. It helps to keep your foot in the door if you ever need to pick up a shift here or there at your bedside job. I still have the occasional per diem bedside shift to help with boredom, but also to help if I need some fast cash for an unexpected event.

My motto is: you can never be too careful. And so far, it’s served me well. So don’t listen to all those guru’s who are telling you to quit your job instantly to write. You can absolutely replace your income as a writer, but it doesn’t have to be black and white. And sometimes, it’s not the best option.

Heading Back to the Bedside

There is absolutely nothing wrong with heading back to the bedside. In fact, I’ve ping ponged a few times over the years. I left to write full-time, missed my patients and went back for a few months. Now, I remain per diem for the occasional shift. Not because I have to or because I was failing as a writer, but because I wanted to!

Life doesn’t have to be full of absolutes. And if you miss the bedside, or if writing isn’t what you expected, that doesn't make you a failure! Life is all about the pursuit of happiness, so make sure you’re doing what makes you happy.

We hear it all the time: Nursing is filled with options for people. And one of those options is medical writing. But if you’ve tried it out, and it’s just not your jam, head back! It’s no different than trying out maternity and deciding to head

back to pediatrics. Some people are just built for different environments. Some people find joy in different situations.

We all have beautiful brains that work differently. Play to your strengths instead of criticizing yourself. And be proud that you made the leap to begin with! Most people wouldn’t have even tried.

Now you have a new skill that you didn’t have before. You could even use this when you head back to the hospital. Are they looking for a manager? Well you were just a project manager on a big writing project. Do they need someone who knows how to write grants? You can do that now!


Nothing is permanent, unless you want it to be. I started off my writing career with just a few blogs a week and scaled from there. I spent a few years going back and forth from the bedside, because that’s what I wanted.

Check in with yourself frequently. Are you happy? If you are, you’re doing something right. Reflect and stay where you are. If you’re not, figure out what needs to change. You can always head back to the bedside or back to writing.

Ready to give writing a go? I can help.

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