Renee Thompson and the Healthy Workforce Institute - The Many Faces of Nursing

Renee Thompson - nurse, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author, and kindness enthusiast - used to wonder "why not me." Today, she enjoys a satisfying career where she educates other on nurse bullying. Learn more about this nurse influencer here. Nurses General Nursing Article Magazine

Renee Thompson and the Healthy Workforce Institute - The Many Faces of Nursing

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

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Think of a nurse who has a career that you wish you could have. You know, that one person that makes work seem fun? Or, just seems to have followed their passions far beyond the bedside? It might not be someone you know personally. You might follow them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or listen to their podcast. But, no matter how you know them, each time you hear their name, you think to yourself, "Why not me?"

If you've had this experience, you and Renee Thompson - nurse, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author, and kindness enthusiast - have a lot in common. Renee was just like you when she started asking herself that exact question years ago. Today, she enjoys a successful career as a public speaker and subject matter expert on nurse bullying that allows her to travel across the country educating nurses and other healthcare professionals. Here is a bit about her journey and what she thinks will be essential to the future of nursing.

From the Bedside and Beyond

Renee graduated in 1991 with an Associates Degree in the Science of Nursing from the Community College of Allegheny in Pennsylvania. She began her traditional nursing career on a cardiac step-down unit at a hospital in Pittsburgh. As her children grew and became involved in extracurricular activities, she found herself missing many of their events. This began her search for a job away from the bedside. She became a home care nurse and spent four years there.

She changed jobs a few times over the years. She reminisced that she sometimes grew bored of positions, especially as she began to master the primary tasks. But, with each new title she held- quality assurance manager, liaison, or unit manager - she learned more about herself and the nursing profession as a whole.

Along the way, she went back to school to obtain her bachelors, masters, and finally, in 2015 she received a doctoral degree in nursing. Each degree brought new opportunities. She eventually found herself in a corporate health system working in professional development. She loved this job.

It enabled her to work with healthcare professionals and to connect and understand them. One function of this job required her to speak publicly about various topics. This led her to her personal "why not me" moment.

She began dreaming of a job that offered flexibility and the opportunity to educate others. This ultimately led to the creation of RT Connections and later the Healthy Workforce Institute - her business that is dedicated to eradicating nurse bullying and incivility.

Why Bullying?

Most nurses will willingly admit that nurse bullying is a problem in our profession. But, why would anyone want to take on such a polarized issue? Renee shared that as she began her speaking career, she wasn't 100% sure what she wanted to teach others about. She created focus groups and started speaking to student nurses and new nurses to ask them what issues were important to them. As she met with groups, all of the nurses wanted to tell stories about nurse bullying and how badly they were treated in their profession.

Renee continued to search for her topic. Being a nurse who often asked "why not me" - she kept searching and thinking about all the topics she could speak about such as diabetes, effective communication, or brain tumors. Finally, she was asked by a colleague to speak at a local facility. Renee offered a few topics to choose from and horizontal violence -bullying - was chosen. She said, "Everything started to align, and I knew that bullying was going to be my specialty."

Lessons Learned Along the Way

Life is full of experiences. When you embark on a nursing journey, the lessons are many. Add in being an entrepreneur - and the lessons are even more plentiful. I asked Renee to share a personal lesson and one about nursing in general that she's learned during her 27-year career. Here's what she shared:

Her Own Lesson

"I'm easily distracted by the next shiny object. At different points along the journey, I needed to do a deeper dive before moving on to the next thing. It's essential to hone your skills in a few specific areas rather than trying to be everything to all people. Pick a lane and stay in your lane.

This lesson may resonate deep within you as you begin your journey beyond the bedside.

Nursing Career Lesson

Renee offered two things she has learned over the years, a good lesson and one she described as a frustration she has encountered.

The Good Lesson

"I have been humbled and inspired by the amazing sense of pride that nurses have for their patients and profession. It amazes me to learn what nurses sacrifice for their patients. I have heard story after story about how nurses connect with their patients at the worst and best times of their lives. It reminds me that it is a privilege and an honor to care for others."

The Nursing Frustration

"Nurses often complain that we're not respected or recognized as a profession. Yet, I'm amazed how often nurses act in a way that they don't deserve or earn the respect they say they want - they don't go back to school or better themselves for their profession. Nurses need to remember that we must put ourselves last. When you're making decisions, you should make them based on your patients, your co-workers, and finally yourself."

There are much value and truth in Renee's words. Think about this lesson and how it can help you become a better nursing professionals in all areas of your career.

Advice for Your Unconventional Nursing Journey

Renee shared that if you're considering leaving the bedside, the first thing you should do is find your community by joining professional nursing organizations. Go to local events they sponsor. Put yourself in situations to meet other nurses who are doing things you think you might enjoy. Ask them what they like about their job and what they dislike about it too. This will help you start to find your passion and opportunities.

Innovations Over the Years

With over two decades of nursing experience and years of meeting and talking to nurses in many different areas, Renee has seen areas of change and innovation. Here are a few areas she watched grow in recent years:

Forensic Nursing

Have you ever wondered if nurses help solve crimes or assist with victims of violence and abuse? According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, these professionals are trained to treat victims of trauma associated with the wrong that was done to them, such as intimate partner violence, neglect, sexual assault, and other forms of intentional injury. Forensic nurses collect evidence and even provide testimony that can be used in court to prosecute those who commit these violent or abusive acts.

Nurses in Genetics

Nurses who work in genetics receive specialized training and education in genetics. They help people at risk for or affected by disease with a genetic component achieve and maintain health. This might include working with people who have Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. For more information about genetics nurses, visit the International Society of Nurses in Genetics (ISONG).

Nurse Practitioners

Renee shared that nurse practitioners have developed as a vital part of our healthcare system in the U.S. Over the past few decades the role of the Nurse Practitioner has emerged and brought with it many opportunities for nurses. The first Nurse Practitioner program in the United States was started in 1965 by Dr. Loretta Ford and Dr. Henry Silver at the University of Colorado. Today, Nurse Practitioners work in many different settings providing care to the underserved and those with chronic health conditions.

Innovations for the Future Nurse

Where will nursing take you? Renee mentioned two areas of nursing that have emerged recently and continue to grow - telemedicine and nurse scientists and researchers. Want to know more? Here is a bit about each:


You might think of telemedicine as something that is only performed by doctors. But, many nurses work in telehealth too. Home care nurses use telehealth to monitor vital signs and symptoms of patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or congestive heart failure. Case Managers use telemedicine to educate patients about self-care techniques after surgery or after workplace injuries.

Telemedicine has expanded in the past few years and will continue to do so in the future. It has given many nurses the ability to work from home and serve a population of patients that might not otherwise have access to immediate healthcare support. It also enables professionals in rural healthcare settings to communicate with large teaching hospitals about critically ill patients and treatment plans. Many feel that telemedicine will be a pivotal part of the future of our healthcare system.

Nurse Scientists and Researchers

Renee mentioned that nurses are natural scientists and researchers, often without even knowing it. And, if you enjoy that part of nursing - there might be new opportunities for you in the future.

Nurse researchers use evidenced-based nursing and practices to create better ways to deliver healthcare services. They work to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illnesses, and they find new ways to encourage other patients to make healthy life choices. Nurse scientists might work to discover new ways to treat diseases or how to keep patients safe. The possibilities in nursing research are endless.

The Many Faces of Nursing

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "the many faces of nursing?" I asked this of Renee. First, her literal brain described the different types of nurses - men, women, young, old, and all of the various ethnicities that make up your profession.

As she spoke, she began to discuss the roles nurses play - you care for patients in their homes, nursing homes, prisons, or in the military. You might be a nurse leader, or you care for babies or the elderly. She painted this beautiful image of all the nurses across the globe.

Somewhere in all of the descriptions she gave is a nurse you know - you. A nurse who fills a special place in this profession. And one who might be looking for new opportunities or new ways to blaze their own trail.

Renee closed our time together with this, "Nurses hold many roles. We care for patients in many ways. That is what makes the many faces of nursing so unique and your journey all your own."

As an international speaker and consultant Dr. Renee Thompson tackles the professional challenges facing healthcare leaders today. With 27 years as a clinical nurse, nurse educator, and nurse executive, Dr. Thompson is a leading authority on creating a healthy workforce culture by eradicating workplace bullying & incivility. She hosts an award winning blog and is the author of several popular books on bullying and professional development. Find out more about Renee.

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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