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Can a Nurse be Introverted?

I recently read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. If you haven’t read the book but are interested in the whole introversion vs. extroversion personality type, I highly recommend it. I’m an introvert and I wish I could have read it 20 years ago, if only to make me feel more comfortable inside my introverted skin.

The book dispels the myth that introverts are these shy, meek people. Rather, they are simply people that thrive in situations that are quiet, solitary, and interruption free. On the other hand, extroverts tend to thrive in group settings, and are adept at handling the many types of interruptions and stimulation that are thrust upon them.

Interruptions? Group settings? Sounds like an extrovert would thrive at nursing. So where does that leave us introverts?

I came across this interesting thread on the topic. I found it interesting because although it predated the Cain book, a few of the nurses were very aware that introversion does not mean shyness, or a lack of confidence; rather it involves levels of social stimulation. Some suggested that ICU, OR, or even school nursing would be tolerable for introverts.

But all of these suggestions don’t take into account that just about any nurse job involves being around people most of the time, and constantly fielding interruptions. Both factors that make an introvert want to pull her hair out.

My advice to the nurse introvert? Go eat lunch by yourself. Find a quite corner somewhere. The chapel, perhaps. Or go outside if the weather permits. An hour of solitude can go along way in re-energizing you for the rest of the shift. But be prepared. Nurses tend to be act in a tribal way, so you may find yourself gingerly explaining that you want to be alone, and you don’t mean to be antisocial.

Also consider the night shift. I used to dread bouncing back and forth from AM to PM shifts, but sometimes the night shifts could be really quite peaceful, without all the interruptions that occur during the day.
In a perfect world we could all find careers that suit our every personality need. In this imperfect world, I believe an introverted nurse can be a happy nurse if he just takes the time to respect his introversion and give it the occasional solitude that it requires.