However, at the right moments in a nurse’s career, the act of being a nurse can also be perceived to be both a vocation and a calling.
Based on nurses’ salaries, work schedules, and the less than chic clothes and shoes that the average nurse wears to work, you would likely be convinced that nursing is usually not a career choice based on a desire for money and glamour.
Something calls a man or woman to become a nurse, and that often derives from a deep internal longing born from a desire to give to, and care for, others.
Ask most nurses and they will tell a story of why they chose nursing. Perhaps they watched an amazing nurse care for their dying mother, or maybe they themselves were the recipient of stellar nursing care. For some, the dream of being a nurse begins in childhood; for others, it comes later in life.
As far as we can see, nurses enter the profession for a variety of reasons, but a common denominator is consistently related to the rendering of support and compassionate care to those who need it most.
Many of us have likely encountered nurses who seem to have no heart; their compassion is missing in action and their ability to connect with patients on anything more than a superficial level is more or less nonexistent.
When nursing becomes a job, it is truly just a means to an end: the nurse comes to work, does their job, and goes home with the pay-check. It’s a transactional experience for the nurse as they trade their time for money.
Nurses who have lost their connection with why they entered the profession in the first place can seem hard and unreachable. They may live on a diet of cynicism and sarcasm, and patients are little more than “the gall bladder in 214,” or, “the bad heart in 222.”
In this scenario, both the nurse and the patient are dehumanised.
Nursing like it matters means moving beyond basic tasks, checklists and things to be done.
When a nurse practices nursing like it matters, the deeper meaning of the work shines through and the nurse feels a connection with what they are doing, and why.
When a nurse is nursing like it matters, bringing home a pay-check is a wonderful result of performing heartfelt service. Nursing is a profession, after all, and most of us report to work because we need money to support ourselves and our families. However, finding meaning in nursing adds value and fulfilment beyond the financial rewards.
A nurse who does their work for more than money feels that they are making a difference in the lives of others, contributing to society, giving back to the community, or any number of positive outcomes that have no relation to the earning of a pay-check.
Nursing like it matters means that patients are reflections of the people we love and how we would want them to be cared for in their hour of greatest need and vulnerability.
A nurse who is experiencing burnout or compassion fatigue may feel lost in negativity and exhaustion. That nurse cannot perform patient care at its most elevated level; instead, that nurse’s care may be adequate, yet it may feel robotic and joyless to both the nurse and the patient.
Nursing from the inside means that the nurse is in touch with the inner workings of what it means to be a nurse.
Working from the inside, the nurse will still be impacted by stress, staffing problems, difficult patient behaviour, and other issues. Even so, underlying professional fulfilment and dedication can serve as a barrier to burnout and compassion fatigue.
Nursing performed like it truly matters comes from deep within the nurse. They aren’t immune to challenges on the job, but they are able to maintain their focus on what’s most important while delivering stellar, patient-centred care.
The fulfilled nurse who approaches their work in this manner will reap the rewards of a career well chosen and a professional life well lived.