You know what is hard about choosing to become a registered nurse? Society assumes you chose the occupation to help people. But then stereotypes your noble profession as a contradiction between a sex symbol and a deranged killer.
In real life, there are as many reasons to go into the nursing profession, as there are nurses. When you are shallow like me, career choices are simple, practical and self-serving.
I chose nursing because I knew I could always get a job.
When I started college, I enrolled in liberal arts, thinking I’d major in English, since I was obsessed with books, words, and ideas. My interests veered, and I decided to become a health educator. When I envisioned poor job prospects, my pragmatic father, James, advised, ‘Why don’t you become a nurse? There are always nursing jobs.”
When my future daughter-in-law, Kelley, was a senior in high school, she and my son, James, were filling out college forms. She was stumped when she came to the check box for ‘major.’ James offered, “Since you are a lot like my Mom, why don’t you major in nursing?” She did, and I can testify that she is like me, at least in her vulnerability to suggestions from career counselors named James.
Deeper reasons for entering the profession
Through the years I’ve heard stories of people who had deeper reasons for entering the profession. Like my friend Debbie, whose inspiration emerged from childhood heroism.
Debbie was the eldest of four children in a household that scraped by through resourcefulness and hard work. She was keeper of a young gang of turkeys destined to adorn the family dinner platter. One day the smallest of the posse was smothered while the more aggressive chicks foraged for lunch.
Debbie recovered his lifeless body from the bottom of the heap, and instinctively vaulted into action. A few seconds of mouth to beak resuscitation, and his tiny breast demonstrated the up and down motion of unmistakable respirations.
With life still hanging by a kitchen string, she wrapped him in a dishcloth and popped him into a warm oven until he revived. ‘Second Chance’ as they named him, lived to be a full-grown turkey. We won’t dwell on what happened after that.
More than job security
Even though my career choice was influenced by the promise of job security, I’ve learned after a few decades to bristle when people say, “You are a nurse. You can always get a job.” Being steadily employed in a dynamic, fascinating, honorable profession has provided much more than a paycheck, and I’m proud to be a nurse.
I’ve endured jokes about slinging bedpans. I’ve endured insults from the hosts of the talk show ‘The View.‘ I’ve endured lightning speed changes, and things that never change.
Congratulate a nurse
May 6 is National Nurses Day. I hope you will congratulate the nurses you know for a job well done.
If you are a nurse, twist your arm around and give yourself a generous pat on the back. And while you are at it, make sure you have the back of your nurse colleagues. In a world with so much misunderstanding about our profession, we need to stick together.
To my readers who are nurses, why did you choose to become a nurse? To those who know a nurse, how will you show your appreciation?