Donna Cardillo (The Inspiration Nurse) - The Many Faces of Nursing

Donna Cardiollo - The Inspiration Nurse - is a nationally known speaker, storyteller, and motivator. Learn her story here. Nurses General Nursing Article Magazine

Donna Cardillo (The Inspiration Nurse) - The Many Faces of Nursing

In 1974, Donna Cardillo -- The Inspiration Nurse -- received a diploma in nursing. Little did she know that graduating from nursing school would provide her with an opportunity not only to care for patients but for fellow nurses, as well.

In a recent interview with Donna, I was given a front row seat to a one-on-one speaking engagement. Even when she's sharing her journey over the phone, Donna is an educator, storyteller, and motivator at heart. Here's what she said about her journey from bedside nurse to nurse influencer.

This article is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of our allnurses Magazine...

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Moving Away From Traditional Nursing

Believe it or not, this Nurse Influencer didn't deliberately choose to leave bedside nursing. After relocating, she was struggling to find a job that worked with her life and other commitments. This led her to apply for a position in a weight loss center. She went into the interview thinking she was interviewing for a part-time staff nurse position and left as a full-time Nurse Manager. This was the first of several non-bedside positions that shaped Donna into who she is today.

Donna reminisced that the job that planted a seed of someday being a public speaker was at a hospital where she was the Director of DRG Services responsible for regulatory, quality, and reimbursement issues. One of the many functions of this position required her to speak publicly, which was entirely out of her comfort zone at the time.

She remembered that because this position was one step away from the nursing management team, many of the staff nurses came to her to inquire how she got the job, what other roles nurses could fill, and if she would help them with their resume. This is where she began forming the dream of one day speaking to nurses to help them see their full potential, especially away from the bedside.

In 1995, during a time that Donna watched fellow nurses get laid off, she decided that there would never be a better time than the present to start living her dream. She went to the local library to learn everything she could about running a business, the art of adult education, and how to be a speaker. Donna began connecting with other nurses, human resource professionals, and nurse recruiters to learn what was important to them when searching for nurses. She became involved with a local woman in business organization to learn more about running a business from women who were doing it. During this time is when she launched her career as a public speaker.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

Donna has learned a lot about herself over the years. She learned that she is more capable than she realized. She said that when you start out on a new adventure, it's important you know you don't need to know everything. You must just start going outside of your comfort zone, and you will be amazed at what you can learn about yourself. She offered this insight, "I am a different person today than I was 23 years ago when I started this journey all because of what I have learned along the way."

Her experiences have brought her face-to-face with countless nurses. Throughout this journey, Donna has learned much about nursing and the people who share the title. One lesson learned along the way - "We (nurses) are multi-talented and versatile. We are capable of more than we realize. We have many professional avenues to explore - CEO of a hospital, editor of a nursing or healthcare magazine, case manager, or nurse entrepreneur. We must remember that hands-on care isn't the only way to make a difference and that there are many ways to heal."

Advice for You

It's not every day you get a first-row seat for information from a top nursing subject matter expert. But, today - you do!

To get where you want to go in life, Donna says you have to go back to nursing school and remember Abraham Maslow's Theory of Self-Actualization, which states that to develop to your full potential, you must challenge yourself. Donna added, "It's scary but exhilarating. Once you know what you want to do - get outside of your comfort zone - start rubbing elbows with others who are doing what you want to do."

For example, if you want to be a case manager, find a local chapter of the Case Management Society of America. Attend a few monthly meetings and make new connections. Even if you end up deciding that case management isn't for you - these experiences will help you determine what you want to do with your future. Another example might be if you're going to be a nurse entrepreneur, attend the National Nurses in Business Association annual meeting. By joining the organization, you can meet others who think outside of the box too.

Donna's final piece of advice is this: "Whatever it is you want to be - find and make connections. You can't stay isolated and be truly successful. Find your tribe and connect with them often."

Where Have We Improved?

I would be remiss to have a fantastic nurse influencer at the other end of the phone and not talk to her about the innovations she's seen. Donna said that over the past twenty years, she has seen so many new areas of nursing emerge. Here are a few areas of nursing innovation that Donna felt emerged and continues to grow:

Holistic Practices

She discussed the emergence of holistic practices where nurses do mind, body, and spirit work with their clients or patients. According to Rasmussen College, holistic nursing cares for the whole person. Holistic nurses integrate complementary medicine into their nursing practices. A few areas of holistic nursing include:

  • Stress management
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Wellness coaching
  • Acupuncture

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics is the combination of computer science and healthcare. Nurses in this area keep one foot in both specialties and tie together the function of healthcare and use of computers to record care. She went on to say that nurses who are tech savvy are very marketable in this area of healthcare, especially since technology continues to grow and shape our industry.

Case Management

Case Management has been around for many years. However, with the emergence of value-based medicine, case managers continue to be in high demand. Nurses who work as case managers interact individually with patients to manage complex medical care while attempting to keep costs to a minimum. Nurses can become certified in case management to deepen their skills further and also increase their profitability and employability.

Legal Nurse Consulting

According to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, these nurses work to analyze and evaluate the facts and testimony and the rendering of informed opinions related to the delivery of nursing and other healthcare services and outcomes. They also help to determine the nature and cause of injuries. They can work in a variety of settings in the legal and healthcare arenas.

Donna expressed that as the healthcare industry continues to create new treatments and our society remains litigious - legal nurse consultants will likely stay in high demand.

Looking to the Future of Innovations

Donna expressed that the future of nursing is about managing conditions, capitalizing on wellness, and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Care Management

Care management is a large specialty area that has many specific care locations and job duties under it. These specialized nurses are a bit different than case managers because they work specifically with individuals managing chronic care needs. Case Managers might work with older patients who want to age at home or those with specific care needs. A few examples of care managers include:

  • Geriatric Care Managers might help patients manage ongoing care, medical appointments, medications, or find new ways to meet the needs of their clients.
  • Transitional Care Managers work with patients as they transition from one level of care to the next. They will help bridge any gaps in care or knowledge and also work to decrease readmissions and subsequent fines to the hospital.
  • Oncology Care Managers work with newly diagnosed cancer patients to help them navigate through their new diagnosis and treatments.
  • Population Care Managers might work with an entire population of patients, such as diabetics, in a clinic or physician's office holding group teaching sessions.


Nurses have been going into business for themselves for many years. But, the emergence of entrepreneurship has boomed in recent years as more nurses realize they can work independently.

Nurse entrepreneurs might be LPNs, RNs, or Advance Practices Nurses. Donna stated, "Nurses used to worry about the legal issues around working independently. Now, they have been empowered by others that they can work independently and branch out into new fields" A few of the types of entrepreneurs she discussed were wound management nurses, patient education businesses, and health and wellness coaching.

She offered this to aspiring nurse entrepreneurs, "Don't stay isolated. Reach out to others, find your tribe."


"It has taken us quite a while to get here, but the healthcare industry has finally started to invest in wellness versus illness. This has brought about new opportunities for nurses to work with people who are well and to keep them well."

If you are a nurse who doesn't enjoy caring for the ill, but you want to continue to work with people - this might be an excellent career opportunity for you. You work in companies that promote wellness or start your own wellness business or coaching business.

The Many Faces of Nursing

To round out our conversation, I asked Donna what she thought of when I said the phrase, "the many faces of nursing." She so eloquently said this, "Nurses are helpers, teachers, scientists, nurturers, and wellness warriors." This is the face of nursing.

Donna Wilk Cardillo, RN is The Inspiration Nurse-a transformational keynote speaker, humorist, retreat and seminar leader, and author helping others to be fearless in career and life and maximize their potential. Her accomplished career combines more than thirty years of clinical, managerial, and business experience. These days she heals with words. She blogs at and is the former Dear Donna columnist at and Find out more at

Check out Donna's latest book: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses - Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career 2nd ed.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. You can see more of her work at or on her blog at

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Thanks for this. Second career and I just passed the NCLEX in June. I've only scratched the surface of where I can go in the future. I'm still in the middle of my orientation but I have this bookmarked for future reference.

Thanks for this great article. I have always admired Donna and this article and an insight into her career was fun to read!