Putting Down the Stethoscope and Picking Up the Pen

By Alexandrea Weis RN-CS

I’m often asked what drove me to pursue a career in writing. Like most things in life, there is no easy answer. I started writing poetry and short stories at the age of eight. Words mattered, and finding the right ones that imparted emotion became an obsession. I excelled at writing, but let’s face it, writing is a tough gig. I wanted to learn more about the world and the people who occupy it before committing to a literary lifestyle. I pursued my bachelor’s in nursing, and after that, a master’s. Once I achieved my clinical specialist in gerontology and my dream job of teaching at a major university, I went back to what made me feel whole, writing.

I penned my first novel after years of burying myself in nursing. The transition was not easy and it did not happen overnight. I still considered myself a nurse and was almost embarrassed to admit that I wrote novels for fun. The big reset came after self-publishing my first book, To My Senses. It was then that I began to feel like a real writer. It took several novels, released through publishers or self-published, to get comfortable as a wordsmith. I remember the day I first called myself a writer instead of a nurse. It was a big deal. Now with my thirty-third book, Have You Seen Me?, about to be released, I know I made the right decision to switch gears.

In nursing, we train our brains to see things through the eyes of medicine. We are focused on evaluating people in terms of health, wellness, and their medical needs. It took a long time for my perspective to shift. That’s not to say I’m not still a nurse. I just see things more through a writer’s lens nowadays. Writing is not an easy profession. I work twelve to fourteen hours every day, including weekends and holidays. I put in more time than I ever did in ICU, and this job stays with me twenty-four/seven, but I love what I do.

It’s not for everyone, but nurses are well suited for the critical thinking, discipline, and extensive research required to put a novel together. My training as an RN made me a better writer. My experiences with patients helped me create more realistic characters who convey a broader interpretation of the human condition. My medical foundation taught me the importance of getting the details right and using what I write to educate readers. The years of dedication to my patients have also made me an advocate and encouraged me to fight for what I want, no matter how hard it may seem. 

I’m not the only nurse to make the giant leap. Louisa May Alcott, Agatha Christie, Mary Renault, Echo Herron, Sue Monk Kidd, and even our founder, Florence Nightingale, put pen to paper. Many nurses pursue literary careers, and some become incredibly successful.  

In the end, being a nurse made me the writer I am, and I would not trade my long road here for anything. It is not a path for the thin-skinned. Your critics are harsh, your editors relentless, and your publishers drive you to drink, but the thrill of holding the book you’ve spent months birthing is unlike any other.

For those who wish to put their stethoscopes aside and reach for their laptop, I encourage you to try. Be prepared for sleepless nights, tears, and a lot of self-doubt, but like those first years after graduating with your nursing degrees, writing is a process of trial and error. You can never learn everything, and you must always be open to mastering new ideas. In that way, both professions mirror each other. Give it your best, and you might be amazed by the results. And no matter what—never give up. Remember, you made it through nursing school and tackled one of the most challenging professions on the planet. You can do anything! 

Best of luck in all you do.       

Bio: Alexandrea Weis is a multi-award-winning, international bestselling author, screenwriter, and advanced practice registered nurse who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable. 

A member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers Association, Weis is known as a New Orleans writer. 

She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals. www.AlexandreaWeis.com


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