Welcome to the 16th installment of Nurse Boss. A blog series dedicated to nurses.
I was guided to create this series after a spark of creativity within my soul felt that it would help thousands of nurses.
My hope is that these interviews will ignite a spark in you or stir your inner landscape in a way that propels you to dream big and go after what it is that you desire in life and career.
A Nurse Boss is a nurse who has created a lifestyle that aligns their passion with their natural gifts and energy style in a way that helps others while also honoring their own body, mind, and soul. A nurse boss walks their talk and they are open to receive the abundance that is theirs.
I was attracted to today’s Nurse Boss from the minute we connected on social media. His energy and optimism are magnetic. He has a heart of gold, a quick wit and a wildly adventurous spirit. Allow me to introduce Robb Hillman, actor turned registered nurse and life coach. Chances are, he will prompt you to think differently about how you view your life.
1. What are you doing now?
I am an RN and a Certified Life Coach. I help nurses who want to feel better. Who are tired of feeling frustrated and undervalued at the end of their shift, and instead want to deliberately empower themselves so that they can feel confident and satisfied instead.
2. Did you always have the desire to do what you are doing now or did someone or something create a spark in you that made you realize this was your calling?
Heh, well, let’s just say I haven’t led a “conventional” kind of life. I was living in New York City as a theater actor, and then 9/11 happened, and like a lot of people in NY I changed the way I was thinking about my life. I hung on just long enough to do a Broadway show (directed by Baz Luhrmann of “Moulin Rouge” fame), but then headed back to school and became a nurse.
I’ve always been an intuitive person, but working in psych really gave me a great window into how coaching principles – deliberately trying to be happy, for example – really made a difference for my patients. And once I started using the ideas on myself, and saw how tiny perspective shifts could totally change my entire life – I was hooked.
3. Why is nursing a great launchpad for nurses who want to create their own lifestyle doing what they love?
I think nursing really prepares us to handle anything. We are the best problems solvers this side of MacGyver. No matter how ridiculous our patient load is, no matter how many family members are giving us grief, no matter how sick our patients get – we are there to pick up the pieces and make sure that things get done. And we do it, day after day after day. This is great practice to then go on to do anything – change specialties, create our own job on our own terms, or to just figure out how to be happy.
4. What is the ultimate characteristic of a nurse boss?
A nurse boss has a superpower, and that superpower is optimism. I think all nurses are optimists at heart. Now there are plenty of people who would try to mock me for saying that. They would say that optimism is naive, and that nurses are just too gritty and “realistic” to be a Pollyanna. But anyone who thinks optimism is weak and silly completely misunderstands optimism.
Being an optimist doesn’t mean ignoring the “real world”, it means refusing to let the external world dictate how you have to live, and what you have to feel. A true optimist is a badass who is stronger than the world.
Most of us became nurses because we wanted to help people. To help them as they heal, and sometimes to help them as they die. The optimist knows they can help, regardless of the outcome. Otherwise, why would you want to be a nurse?
Also, google “optimism + health”, you might be surprised to see the wealth of evidence- based research out there that shows pretty clearly how optimism is good for your health. In my quest to have a totally awesome life, I’m certainly not leaving such a useful superpower off the table.
5. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced to get to where you are now? How were you able to overcome it?
As a new nurse, I was definitely tempted to use cynicism and “venting” as relief mechanisms against the seemingly unending stress and frustration I was feeling. What I eventually realized though was that while they provided temporary relief, they never actually helped me feel better, they distracted me but never charged up my batteries. Once I accepted that my natural optimism was a gift and not a curse, and that I could find much better ways of taking care of myself other than complaining (which was just training my brain to constantly look for the negative so I’d have something to talk about), I started enjoying my job a whole lot more.
6. What does your current job allow you to do that traditional nursing did not?
The thing I’ve always wanted, more than anything else, was freedom. When I was an actor I was free to explore my artistry without having a typical full-time 9-5 job. As a nurse I was free to not worry about money as I got out of debt and started building a retirement. As a coach I do all of my work by phone/online, so I am literally free to be anywhere in the world. I sold all my belongings and have been traveling the world full time for almost two years so far. A few months ago I was down in Uruguay celebrating hitting country #40. The traveling is excellent self-care, while still allowing me to work with clients and help nurses feel better and get the results they want. I’m free.
7. For nurses who feel stuck in their careers what words of wisdom do you have to help inspire them to break out of their status quo?
The inertia of the status quo is immense.
So many of us trick ourselves into thinking that there is a benefit to tolerating “the devil we know”. I call shenanigans on that line of thinking. Staying put is great if you love what you’re doing. But that is very different from tolerating what you’re doing.
A deceptively simple exercise I give my clients is to make a list of the things that you want. Most really struggle to come up with more than a few things. But if you don’t know where you are headed, how are you going to get there? Some people like creating elaborate vision boards, some like a simple paper list, do whatever motivates you the most. But write things down. Don’t hold back, or play small, but be honest. Do you want to save as many lives as possible? Do you want to retire early? Do you want to change specialties? Do you want to find a job you like and stay there for 35 years? Do you want to get married, or to be an entrepreneur, or to move someplace warmer? Having goals can be hugely empowering.
And then, go for a walk. There is nothing like some physical activity to clear your brain and get you out of your head. I walk 10K steps a day at the bare minimum, and I usually have my best ideas either while or just after I’ve been walking.
8. What resources can you share for nurses wanting to explore creating their own gig that actually pays them?
Find a community! I very much believe the adage that you are the average of the five people you hang out with most. If you want to go for an advanced degree, you are going to ask people who have already done it. If you want to change specialties you are going to talk to people in that specialty. If you want to be an entrepreneur, talk to some entrepreneurs! There are many different directions a nurse entrepreneur can go – legal nursing, opening a staffing company, direct sales, teaching skills such as CPR, coaching, to name just a few – so find the people who are doing what you want to be doing and get to know them.
The thing to remember is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If other people are doing it, so can you. And having friends is only going to help you. Some people complain that wealthy people talk about money only because they have it. I say, they have money because they talk about it. Whatever it is that you want to do, find your people and start talking about it.
Now for fun:
9. What book or publication is currently on your nightstand?
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. My inner nurse and coach both are absolutely fascinated with how our brains work and why we develop the habits (both good and bad) that we do.
10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Khao soi, which I discovered while spending a month in northern Thailand. It is a curry made from coconut milk and is so delicious I basically stopped eating all other Thai food, which is pretty high praise because I love Thai food. Now I’m hungry.
11. How can we get in touch with you?
Please do, I’m a people person and I love to connect!