Introverts in Nursing – does it work?

In the Ted Talks series, Susan Cain speaks out for introverts and states that being an introvert is “how you respond to stimulation”.  Monahan (2013) goes on to say “Often confused with shyness, introversion is an aspect of personality which affects how we engage in social activity and our preferences for learning.”  How often have you looked at the students in your class and thought the quiet students weren’t interested or engaged because they rarely contribute to class discussions? Or thought they weren’t prepared for class due to their lack of involvement? Are we as educators underestimating the potential of the introvert and mistaking their quiet contemplation as being unprepared? As a nursing instructor, what does this mean?


I have to admit that I’m more of an extrovert so I naturally gravitate towards those of similar personalities. I do enjoy my own quiet time, especially when I have a deadline that requires all of my attention. After watching the Ted Talks with Susan Cain, I came to realize that I do overlook the quieter students or at times feel that they are not interested or engaged. I am learning that this may not be the case, that in fact they are engaged but in their own way. They may be internalizing the information and need time to process how it will fit in with their learning style or whether or not they have something meaningful to contribute.

The problem is, that in nursing, being an introvert is not exactly a good thing. You are expected to be a patient advocate, to speak up when needed, to sit with families and discuss the good, bad and the ugly of their situation. I have watched nurses who were shy and/or introverted speak with families and it was like watching an accident in slow motion – slightly horrifying with nothing you can do. Nursing is an extrovert profession so now I’m left to wonder, how can I support my introverted nursing students and do they even need my support.


When looking at the information I decided to look at nurses who admit to being introverts do to make their career successful. George (2014) states that there are 5 reasons why introverts make good nurses: 1. Introverts are highly observant; 2. Introverts are good listeners; 3. Introverts are usually intuitive; 4. Introverts prefer depth to breadth; 5. Introverts are often soft spoken.  These are all things we look for in a nurse and perhaps as nurses and nurse educators, we need to look past personality (introvert vs extrovert) and the importance we place on it when students are caring for patients. Are we trying to mould the students into images of what we think they should be rather than what they want to be? Does it alter patient care?


I think the best thing I can do to help my introverted students is to ensure that they realize at times they will have to become extroverted in some situations and ask how they plan on doing that. Perhaps they don’t realize how much of an introvert they are and need time to self-reflect on their nursing practice as a student and then as a fully-fledged nurse.  Perhaps they need to figure out where they want to work and if their introversion will work there.  At the end of the day, I have learned that I need to be more mindful of the introverted students in my classroom and remind myself that quiet doesn’t always equal boredom or being unprepared. I also need to have my extroverted students pull back and allow others to shine in their own time.



Cain, S. (2013). The Power of Introverts. Retrieved from:        on Sunday, November 8th, 2015

George, L. (2014). 5 Reasons Introverts Make Great Nurses. Retrieved from: on Sunday, November 8th 2015

Monahan, N. (2013). Keeping Introverts in Mind in Your Active Learning Classroom. Faculty Focus.           Retrieved from: on Sunday, November 8th, 2015

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