Several of my nurse friends are now retired, and a few have given up their nursing license. But I cannot understand that. I won’t give up my nursing license until I take my last breath. Why so? Because being a nurse is part of my identity, and I love it. Over the years, I’ve probably thought of a hundred reasons for why I love being a nurse. But today, let me focus on why I love being a nurse this year.
I love the challenge
Early on, I realized that I would never know everything I needed to know in order to be a good nurse. And the same is true now. During most of my time being a nurse, I’ve had one foot in the clinical camp and one foot in the academic camp. I’ve never learned it all. I am at peace with the fact that I never will, and I love being a life-long learner.
When I teach my comprehensive course, I find myself wanting to teach attendees everything they’ll ever need to know for the next 50 years. It’s not possible. So, I force myself to focus on teaching basic concepts and basic principles to manage basic problems. (If they want to know about using music, breastfeeding during air travel, breastfed babies who have constipation, craniosacral therapy for babies, waterbirth, Dancing for Birth™, or any number of hugely interesting topics that do NOT reflect “basic” information — well, they need to keep reading this blog or listening to my podcast!)
I still have lifelong friends from nursing school
Hospital schools of nursing were moving toward extinction when I was in high school. Nevertheless, I felt that the total-immersion experience in a hospital-based education would be a good fit for my life. However, it was really rugged. On August 19 (see? I even remember the day we started!) there were 49 students in my freshman class. But by Christmas, we had only 36. The rest of us became pretty tight with each other.
Only a few days ago, I “talked” to one of my friends from nursing school. (Nowadays, these “talks” are often by text or Zoom, but you get my drift.) There’s something about those formative years where we had each other’s back.
I love the instant recognition and respect
If I go to a social event, someone always asks what I do. I just say, “I’m a nurse.” (I never elaborate.)
Instantly, they exude praise for all nurses everywhere. (I agree, I’ve had help from some amazing colleagues.) Ah … these strangers assure me that all nurses have some superpower. I lap it up! I would not describe myself as having a hero complex. But yeah, I admit, I did some pretty amazing clinical stuff in my day.
I love marching to the tune of a different drummer
After about 3 weeks in nursing school, I began to hate those 7 words, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Hence, I knew I would be a “different” nurse.
Indeed, I was! And I am!
Long before we talked about “evidence-based practice” I was living in the library on my days off from work. By the early 1980s, I was gung ho to facilitate skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery, because I had seen it work. Instinctively, I knew that NPO in early labor was wrong. I encouraged laboring mothers to assume upright postures. And much more.
The bosses and the coworkers called me a troublemaker. Then, fighting for better birth practices often made me feel like I was being a bad little girl. Now, I feel like a totally smart woman who was (and probably still is!) ahead of the times. Certainly, low-tech approaches have been and continue to be important to me.
I’ve never regretted being a nurse
I did my time working nights, weekends, and holidays. I have put up with unenlightened bosses, backstabbing coworkers, cranky patients, inept interns and residents, cocky surgeon-divas, and much more. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I won’t say I’ve done it all, but I’ve done a lot. I’ve been a staff nurse, a clinical nurse specialist, a university faculty instructor, a nurse administrator, an author, a founding editor of a major nursing publication, president of BabyFriendly USA, a founding member of the US Breastfeeding Committee and probably more that I’ve half-forgotten about. And nothing I’ve ever done before or since compares to my two experiences sitting on the NCLEX panel. Having such enriching experiences has — and will continue to — keep me going long after my classmates have all retired.
I do celebrate Nurses Day every year. And if you love being a nurse, you should, too!
What do you love about being a nurse? How have the nurses in your life impacted you? Tell me in the comments below! Share this post with the nurses in your life, and say, “thanks!”