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Stop saying you’re ‘just’ a nurse

Remove the “j word” from how you describe yourself, and your
career will benefit, says a top Cleveland Clinic physician.
Lily Martis, Monster staff
“So, what do you do?”
You’ve been asked this question many times before—at a
networking event, during a job
interview, in the exam room or
even while on a first date.
And so, not giving it a ton of
thought, you answer, “I’m just a
This is wrong.
Think about it: Are you just a
nurse? Are you just an internist?
Or, are you a nurse? Are you an
The latter sounds much better,
wouldn’t you agree?
Tom Abelson, medical director
of the Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Family Health & Surgery
Center, does.
In response to a woman who
was filling in for a sick medical assistant in the ENT office
calling herself “just a float,”
Abelson sent a powerful email

to his team encouraging them to
erase the word “just” as a precursor to their job title.
“I have heard myself say, ‘I am
just a general otolaryngologist,’” Abelson wrote in the email
published by Advisory Board, a
health care best practices firm. “I
have heard others say, ‘I am just
a receptionist.’ …So let’s lose the
word ‘just’ at the Beachwood
FHC. We can describe ourselves
without the word ‘just’ without losing the humility that we
hopefully all feel as well. If you
hear someone say it to describe
them…I’m saying let’s have pride
in what we do as individuals and
as a team.”
Just saying—(whoops, let’s try
that again)—Saying you are
“just” a nurse, physician or
whatever your job title is has
actual consequences, as well. The
usage of this newly forbidden four-letter word can result
in burnout, Laura Martin, an

Advisory Board senior analyst,
found in her research.
“The sentiment of ‘just’ was
a recurring theme in our
burnout work,” Martin told
Abelson’s email. “Time and
again we heard from burned out
physicians who felt like ‘just a
cog in the wheel.’ Ensuring the
entire care team feels recognized
and valued is critical as we
increasingly rely on their full,
top-of-license support. No one is
‘just’ anything.”
Professional burnout, defined
by the Mayo Clinic as “a state
of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with
doubts about your competence
and value of your work,” is
pretty common among health
care workers. According to a
2015 Mayo Clinic study, more
than half of U.S. physicians
experience professional burnout, with frontline health care
workers experiencing the highest

If you want to combat burnout—and give your career a
major confidence boost—wiping
the word from your vocabulary
will help you to go far in your
professional endeavors, whether
you’re interviewing for a job or
creating a treatment plan for a
After all, would you really trust
a colleague who didn’t sound
totally sure of their career
prognosis? (Answer: No.)
And if you wouldn’t put “just”
before your job title on your
written resume, then why would
you say it before your job title in
a conversation?
You see the point we’re trying to
make. So, back to the original
question: What do you do?
Your answer: My name is
[insert your name here], and
I am a [insert job title here].

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