Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Call of the Nurse

Having worked as a psychiatric nurse, I'm very interested in the field of mental health. Dr. Deborah Serani , a psychologist (and blogger) specializing in trauma and depression, reminds us that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Check out her blog at the link above for information on the National Depression Screening Day scheduled for October 6, 2005 (today!) in locations in both the United States and Canada.


Well that was interesting! I hit the "h" key in the "Webdings" font and it was an ambulance! How appropo!

In my search for nursing ephemera I've found many images and slogans. Some are funny, some are serious. Some are just plain corny. I was attracted to this poster because it speaks of finding self through service to others; a rather profound philosophy to sum up in one sentence.

I have always felt that nursing was a "calling", that the urge to care for the sick and the ability to do so was a gift from God. Everything I did, every class I took from the age of nine onward was geared to accomplish the goal of being a registered nurse. Without deviation. How many nine-year-olds are that focused? I was writing to diploma programs for catalogs by the time I was ten. I could not believe I was accepted to the first program I applied to, nearly just out of high school. As I entered the field and worked as a nurse there were times I fought it, times I hated it, times I wished I could do anything else, but instinctively I always knew that it was what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

So it was illuminating to find out that this was not the standard experience of other nurses!
Interestingly, some men I know, who chose nursing as a second or third career, were attracted to the pay, the job security and the flexibility of hours. No sense of a "calling" there at all. Hmmm. What about the women? Well, one says she can't remember a time that she didn't want to be a nurse but never felt it was any kind of a spiritual calling. Another had such a wretched experience watching incompetent nurses deal with the death of a relative that as a teenager she thought, "I can do better". And she does! She is a great nurse, loves her job, but never thought of it as a "calling" per se. My last "interviewee" said she made the decision at the age of 18 but it was a rational decision to focus on that area of study. No "calling" involved.

So gee, is it just me? These old posters and vintage photos depict nursing as a "noble" profession; maybe I was just born 20 years too late or never got over my "CherryAmesItis". I know it was never addressed in my training. No classes on the history of nursing or the contributions of nurses to society. The more modern recruitment campaigns ("If caring were enough, anyone could be a nurse." ) surely don't focus on it. And compare this ad to the one above. "Because I'm A Nurse"? What, I can stand there with my arms crossed looking like a
bad-ass-don't-mess-with-me chick? This poster was up in our ER and I was trying to understand what the message was.

It certainly wasn't about finding yourself through caring for others.

Someone who is into nursing only for the money, the benefits, the hours and the flexibility won't last a year in this profession. They had better be into nursing for the patients because that is where the entire heart of the profession resides. I would like to see this fact mirrored in the recruitment drives because while there are wonderful, tangible benefits to the job, it's the ability to care and to translate that care into action that makes the profession a vocation. Because it isn't true that if caring were enough, anyone could be a nurse.

It takes a unique person to "care" the way a nurse cares.


At 10/06/2005 03:35:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Kim,

Thank you for talking about Mental Health Awareness. Getting the message out is so important.

Your vintage pictures of nurses and of pictures in general do depict a time when value and integrity, purity and truth were more pronounced and celebrated. And you are right, it does take a unique person to care the way a nurse does. My Dad was recently very ill and I count the nursing staff, and their tireless efforts, for saving his life. They were unbelievable. Nurturing, caring, supportive, informative, an advocate, a friend when it was most needed. I bought them gifts to show my appreciation and expressed in words how I felt. So special.

BTW, I love your lego nurse!!


At 10/06/2005 05:51:00 AM, Blogger Wendy, S.N. said...

I don't think it was a calling for me than a realization of my own destiny.

My whole family has a medical background. Nurses. I resisted the trend and went into business administration. After 13 years of working to make some CEO wealthier without benefitting or helping anyone else, not even myself, I felt completely disenchanted.

I enrolled in nursing school, and took a lower paying job with less responsibility. Now I am working full-time while putting myself through school while raising a family.

It's tough, but every time I go to clinicals and the patient tells my instructor how wonderful I was with them, I know what I am doing is the right choice, and I should have made it a long time ago.

W. :)

BTW. I enjoy your blog immensely.

At 10/06/2005 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Well I have to admit to having been that nurse with vocation who knew from an early age she wanted to be a nurse and care for people. As a child anyone younger who got to play with me got to be the patient. Also my dolls got to be patients too.

However after just under 20 years I moved into management, I kind of ran out of steam with the caring side. I saw others developing a cynical edge and begin to look burnt out. I hated the idea of that happening to me. And actually it has pretty much worked!

At 10/06/2005 02:38:00 PM, Blogger pammiecakes said...

I felt a calling, Kim! I was working a marketing job, trying to think of anything else to do, any other career I might have liked even just one ounce better, and nursing kind of came to me. I was sitting at my desk, staring at the computer screen and it was like God said, "Be a nurse, Pam." And I said "Good idea!" and I started prereqs for two years and then got accepted into a program.

I'm with you too, that it's like an instinct. Whenever I have doubts I get this feeling that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and I'll get through it. And I always do.

Thanks for posting about this!

At 10/11/2005 09:26:00 PM, Blogger Lars said...

Thank you for talking about National Depression Screening day. Screening for depression is one of the most effective ways of catching this disabling condition so that it can be effectively treated. But why only 1 day a year? Because it takes too long to administer the screening. To overcome that, we at AuroraMD, automated the screening process, so that it happens automatically in the primary care waiting room with little staff time. Then the results are presented to the doctor in the exam room. See our website .
Is your doctor screening everyday?

At 10/29/2005 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Dean said...

The Aging Service Project is conducting academic research for the purpose of improving services to the elderly.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has made a call to action in Crossing the Quality Chasm. This project aims to show one way we can take a step with integrated continuing care for the aging.

The project can use your help. The results are confidential and the report will be published at the site.

At 6/07/2008 06:31:00 AM, Anonymous Martin said...

Good Job! :)


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