The Allure of the Airwaves

The joys and pitfalls of a podcasting pioneer

Nurse Keith Carlson sits next to his recording equipment with a sign for "The Nurse Keith Show" in the background

Sitting at my desk, I ponder the microphone that for almost seven years has served as my megaphone for speaking to the wider world. Podcasting is like a virus I haven’t been able to shake, but its “symptoms” are extraordinary, from the opportunity to interview amazing nurse innovators to waxing poetic about whatever’s on my mind.

My journey to becoming a nurse podcaster began back in 2005, the year I launched my nursing blog, Digital Doorway. At that time, there were few bloggers — let alone nurse bloggers — and most of us didn’t know what we were doing. It was truly uncharted territory, an unplowed field waiting for us to plant the seeds of our creativity and ambition.

Having mastered the arts of blogging, career coaching and being what we’d now call a social media influencer, the natural progression was to jump into either audio- or video-based engagement with my widening audience. In the end, the allure of the airwaves was too strong to deny.

RNFM Radio

In late 2011, I was hanging out on Twitter, chatting with numerous nurses. Two people came into particular focus: Anna Morrison, RN, BSN, and Kevin Ross, RN, BSN, fellow nurse entrepreneurs. A four-hour conference call led to our forming a business.

We launched RNFM Radio in January 2012, becoming one of the first of a handful of groundbreaking nursing podcasts. We launched RNFM Radio in January 2012, becoming one of the first of a handful of groundbreaking nursing podcasts.  Over the next few years, the audio world was our oyster. We interviewed nurse superstars like Donna Cardillo, RN, M.A.; Michelle Podlesni, RN; Candy Campbell, RN, DNP, CNL, FNAP; and Louise Jakubik, RN-BC, Ph.D. Authors, consultants, writers, filmmakers and entrepreneurs joined us in exciting conversations.

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On one episode, well-known nurse author Carol Gino, RN, M.A., discussed how she wrote The Nurse’s Story, a slightly controversial but seminal work of autobiographical fiction that changed the way many people view the profession. Frequent guest Renee Thompson, RN, DNP, CMSRN, talked about the scourge of nurse bullying and the passionate war she’s waging against it.

On one very memorable early episode, Judith Redwing Keyssar, RN, shared about her work with the dying, as well as her own cancer diagnosis. In a similarly emotionally raw moment, nurse author Karen Ingalls, M.A., told the story of being a 10-year survivor of ovarian cancer and the process of writing her award-winning book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir.

There were moments of personal vulnerability too. It was on RNFM Radio where I first went public about failing the nursing boards the first time I took them and the toll that took on me. The RNFM podcast was also where my co-host, Kevin Ross, documented his mother’s cancer diagnosis, swift decline and eventual death.

RNFM Radio was home to a lot of laughter and teasing among the co-hosts, along with a sincere desire to elevate the nursing profession to new heights. We found a willing audience who forgave our steep learning curve and periodic changes in personnel and format.

Those were exciting times, and RNFM was going strong until its eventual sunset in 2016. The big lessons had been learned and the trail had been blazed.

The Nurse Keith Show

Several years into the life of RNFM Radio, I launched my own podcast, focused on helping nurses create the careers of their dreams. “The Nurse Keith Show” was conceived as a weekly monologue, with each episode zeroing in on common career-related issues experienced by my coaching clients and those who reached out to me for advice.

Hiring Now

Podcasting remains one of my favorite pastimes as well as being a powerful way to create intimate connections with an audience hungry for support. It’s a privilege to find a place between the ears of willing listeners throughout North America, as well as in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia and Asia.

From stories about the nature of suffering to advice about choosing between day shift and night shift, I thoroughly enjoy the creative process of recording impactful content for my listeners.

Power and Vulnerability

There’s a vulnerability to hopping on the microphone and sharing my thoughts. When I chose to do what I do, I quickly learned that it can be both exciting and scary to be so open to the opinions and feedback of others.

Beyond blogging and podcasting, I’m very active on social media and I also speak on stage in front of audiences of nurses and healthcare leaders. Having a worldwide soapbox is great, but the courage to step back up has to be summoned each and every day.

With the power of a public forum comes the vulnerability of being a public figure, complete with the paranoia of wondering, “Did I do it right?” or, “What if people disagree with me or don’t like me?” When publishing for the benefit of others, those eternal questions are always nagging. The only real answer I’ve found is to believe enough in my power to communicate to keep doing it day after day.

The journey consists of thousands of steps, and it’s been a personally fulfilling road to travel these last years. I accept both the power and the vulnerability of my self-appointed position, and my commitment to the nursing profession is undaunted. I’ll continue to do it as long as I have something worthwhile to say and an audience willing to listen.

Nurse Keith Show podcasts can be found at: www.nursekeith.com or nursekeithshow.libsyn.com

RNFM Radio is archived at: rnfmradio.com

You can also get both series through Google Play, iTunes or any podcast app.

KEITH CARLSON, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has hosted the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at www.nursekeith.com.

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