March 4, 2017

Meet Craig Erickson: Keeping It Real For Nurses

Meet Craig Erickson: Keeping It Real For Nurses

Craig Erickson, RN, BSN graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in 1986. He has been a critical care nurse for 27 years, with most of that time concentrated in the area of Cardiovascular ICU. A self-professed techno-nerd who grew up with Radio Shack, the love of gadgets and how they work translated well with critical care nursing. A YouTube personality, Craig launched the Keepit Real, RN channel along with a blog -- -- where he has been keeping it real since 2014.

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Tell us about your nursing career.

If you speak with some of the newer nurses that I work with, they think the arc of my career started about the time there was an old bearded man who had animals of every species boarding his large boat two by two.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota back in June 1986; that particular summer, jobs were difficult to come by and there were very few hospitals in my local market who were hiring new grads.

My very first nursing job was at the same nursing home where I had worked as a certified nursing assistant while I was going to nursing school. I went from making $6.50 an hour as a CNA to making $10 an hour as an RN. I thought I had the world by the proverbial tail.

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A year and a half later, I finally landed a job in a hospital’s general medical floor; I was working eight-hour night shifts, five days a week. I ended up being miserable and counted the days when I would be free to move on.

I made a few lateral moves within the same institution, and at the end of 1989, I decided it was time to make a big move. I packed whatever worldly possessions would fit in my compact car and headed to San Diego where I would start working in critical care. Leaving everything that was familiar, starting a new job, and starting a new life was one of the most frightening and yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The best part of my San Diego experience was meeting my lovely wife who I’ve been married to now for 24 years.

Over the next few years, we did travel nursing together and ended up dropping anchor in South Florida in 1992 where we both worked critical care for the next 14 years. It was during this time that I took on a supervisory role as the unit coordinator for the intensive care unit. I am proud to say that if you talk to my coworkers, the one thing that they would all say is that I was fair.

In 2005, my wife and I moved to Rochester, Minnesota to work at the world famous Mayo Clinic’s cardiovascular intensive care for the next eight years. With my prior leadership experience, it wasn’t long before I was the charge nurse on a very busy unit.

What kind of nursing do you currently practice?

I work in a unit called Enhanced Critical Care; I started there in the spring of 2013 and it was being on the ground floor of a brand new paradigm. ECC is where medicine, nursing, and technology collide; the best way I can describe it is that it is telemedicine for the ICU.

You’re very active on social media; how has your social media presence impacted your career and what is your mission in using social platforms?

I make a very conscious effort to keep my personal brand and my employer’s brand separate. I’ve tended to not promote my social media activities to my work colleagues, although some of them have discovered it on their own. Surprisingly, when they find my content online, they are very supportive and share it with each other.

My mission on social media is to grow an audience. It’s not just enough though to have people who read my content and watch my videos; my goal is to create a community where people can gather and learn from each other and support one another.

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Like other nurse personalities, you use video to communicate with a large nursing audience; how do you leverage the video format and what are you most trying to convey to your audience?

What I like about the video medium is that you can create content that has a personality. The key to being successful in the video is putting out a consistent and predictable stream of content; this is one area I intend to improve on 2017. My YouTube channel currently features topics such as:

My Nursing Story: a feature where I tell my nursing story in detail from the time I first started nursing school until where I am right now. When all is said and done, this will consist of at least fifty 10- to 20-minute episodes.

Story Time: telling funny anecdotes of things that have happened to me throughout my nursing career.

Other features include: Ask Me Anything, My Opinion on Stuff, Nursing Advice, Education, and Surviving the Night Shift.

It is interesting that of all my videos, anything about the night shift seems to be an instant hit.

Your platform is called Keep It Real RRN; hat was the inspiration behind creating it? Has that changed since you began in 2014?

My intention when I started this project was, to be honest, forthright, and not sugar coat anything that I talk about. From me, you get the real deal. For example, there is no shame in being in nursing for the money.  People, especially administrators, will try to say that nursing is not about the money; I beg to differ. It’s not ALL about the money, but it IS about the money. I can’t think of many people that would do it for free.

Nurses have an obligation to themselves to try ane do as well as they can, financially.  Don’t let anybody tell you that there is something wrong with that.

If you could talk to every new nurse just entering the profession, what are the most crucial pieces of advice that you would give?

Get to know an older nurse. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many mentors I’ve had in my career; without them, I wouldn’t have been able to survive all of these years. One thing I learned is that some older nurses are just young nurses trapped in an old person’s body.

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If you were to name several habits that assist you in being effective and productive, what would they be?

Making lists and planning for the next day. I am not nearly as productive as I would like to be and that is an area I am focusing on this year. I work best with deadlines, whether it’s one imposed by somebody else or by myself. I pride myself in saying I’m going to get something done by a certain time and then getting it done.

What do you do to stay fit, relax, and have fun outside of work?

I go to the gym at least twice a week but probably should go more. When the weather is nice, I like to go bike riding and for walks with the family.

One of my favorite activities is playing the guitar. One of my original intentions for going to nursing school was to have a fallback position when I was playing music full time. After nursing school, I never did get back to full time music, but I still enjoy it when I can.

What are your plans for your clinical and non-clinical career paths in the next 5-10 years?

In the next ten years, I hope that I will be winding down my career at the hospital and hopefully retire. My goal is that by then my social media thing will be in full swing and I’ll be able to work entirely on my own terms.  Though not a big fan of higher education, I still put out the effort to learn and stay current in my clinical practice.

I’m currently spending time learning web design and also increasing my skill with the Adobe suite of products.

Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know?

In fact, there is; if you’re interested in learning about me in a little more depth, I was recently a guest on the RNFM Radio podcast.  Check it out here

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Twitter: @keepitrealrn Instagram: @keepitrealrn

Next Up: Meet Megen Duffy: Not Nurse Ratched