Reclaiming our Profession

  1. As nurses, we are inundated with the image of "angels in white", being told nursing is a "calling". We need to look at these ideas and realize how they are being used by others outside our profession to not allow us the recognition we deserve.

    Reclaiming our Profession

    I've been a nurse for a few years now. When I was wait-listed for nursing school, it seemed the profession was undergoing a change. Many Diploma programs were being closed in my area, the push was again taking place for the Bachelor's degree to be the standard of entry into practice and many nurses in my area were being laid off. When I was finally admitted to nursing school, I embraced the ideas I was being taught wholeheartedly. I LOVED the idea of becoming a nurse. I truly felt I had found my niche.

    As a new nurse, I embraced the idea of being "an angel in white". Advocated the idea that nursing was a "calling" that only special people could answer. When I wasn't able to get a break or even a lunch period, I chalked it up to the idea of my calling. I was sacrificing for my patients, they deserved all I had to give even at my own expense. I looked at older nurses that I worked with, ones who didn't seem to "care" (as I so naively assumed), didn't deserve to be called nurses. Only I, as a young, fresh new nurse-so full of myself, could TRULY care...TRULY understood what it meant to be a nurse.

    Fast forward to the present day. I've been around the block more than a few times now. Counting my time spent first as a nursing assistant then a tech then finally an RN, I've learned an important lesson: I am NOT an "angel in white". I am a highly trained professional, bringing a high level of experience and knowledge to the table. I have skills that have a high value, I work in a PROFESSION that literally is responsible for people's lives. I can make the difference between a patient having a positive outcome or a negative one. It's taken me 18 years to learn this lesson. (Never said I was a quick learner.) Unfortunately, there aren't too many people out there who realize this about my profession.

    I was at Hallmark earlier tonight, looking for a card for a friend who has now been accepted into a Master's program to become an NP. I ran across a few cards that were displayed for Nurses Day, which is fast approaching. I looked at these cards, full of teddy bears, band-aids and sentiment thanking me for my sacrifice, for being an angel. Not one card acknowledged the years of training and study I've undertaken to get to this stage in my career. Not one card acknowledged the responsibility I have in training not only new nurses but new doctors. Not one card recognized my commitment to a profession but to an altrustic idea. To me, these types of sentiment are used to de-value what I do.

    Let me put it to you this way: If I am a nurse because I have some altruistic idea, then it's o.k. for hospitals to not pay me for my years of experience. Let's face it, the more years I have in the profession, the less I am compensated. If I'm an "angel" I should accept my place in the healthcare world and realize it's perfectly all right for me to NOT be paid a decent wage, to NOT be compensated for my knowledge, skills and experience. It's o.k. for hospital administrators to dictate staffing matrixes without considering my input because, after all, as a nurse I'm considered a drain on the bottom line not an asset. I should just "suck it up" and realize I'm powerless to do anything about it. I should recognize it's ok for doctors to belittle me, because if I was truly "that smart" I would have went to medical school, not nursing school. If I'm an "angel", I should look to the hearafter for my reward, I should really be putting most of my earnings into a retirement account so I "won't be a drain on society" when my body wears out and I can no longer work as a nurse (honestly, this was quoted in a nursing Journal I have from the 1940's). It's all right for hospitals to give me patients that are so ill I barely have time to care for them, let alone take a bathroom break for myself. I shouldn't complain when some administrator so full of themselves adds another stupid form I have to fill out because really, they think I have plenty of time to fill out redundant paperwork. Heaven forbid I ask for lifting equipment to move my large patients...we can't afford that stuff and reallly, as a nurse you should be able to find other staff to help you move that patient. Heaven forbid you then injure your back...you must be malingering. No reason for you to get hurt when trying to provide care when you are short staffed, you should just be able to make it work.

    I have decided to turn in my halo. Maybe I should become the "Norma Rae" of my unit, loudly advocating for our staff and patients. I have found my voice and I am now ready to use it. I am a NURSE and as such deserve your respect not a little angel pin. Don't patronize me telling me how I should learn to work smarter, not harder. And don't expect me to use your script, telling my patients "Truly, I have the time" when I don't. You think you can do my job better? Come walk in my shoes for one shift, just one..I guarantee you won't make it.

    It's time for nurses to stand up and say with one voice "We are nurses, this is our profession. We are reclaiming who we are and we're not going to take this anymore!" Who is with me?
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 16, '18
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    About highlandlass1592

    A critical care nurse with 13 years experience. Looking forward to the new horizon, realizing the direction nursing is headed and seriously trying to change our profession for the better. Hoping to one day leave future nurses in a little bit better of a position than the one I inherited.

    Joined: Nov '08; Posts: 676; Likes: 1,215
    Specialty: 13 year(s) of experience in Critical care

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    61 Comments

  3. by   harleypinkno15
    This is amazingly eloquent. I cannot describe to you how much I agree with what you have to say. Nurses are such an incredible part of the medical field and I cannot tell you that if we were not there Doctors would not know what to do with themselves. My God I want to make it clear that we are not comparing ourselves because there has been a week of comments regarding that subject. I agree this is the time for nurses to realize we have become an extremely important part of the medical field and I repeat myself when I say as nurses we are frontline and there are so many articles written. Nurses can make a difference in a matter of life and death. To any of my fellow nurses out there please take pride in what you do. Nursing today has changed drastically from what it was many years ago. Take pride in what you do every day because it is really important. Nurses today cannot be swept under the carpet for what they once might have been considered. My heart and my salute goes out to all the nurses who have chosen this job because it was a calling and because the best interest was in the patient and not the money. Don't get me wrong we all need an income but choose something else to do to make money if it is not in your heart. Your mom, your dad, your brother or your child could be in the care of that nurse. How would you want them to be treated. Carma is a terrible thing.
  4. by   washingtonrn
    AMEN!
  5. by   msn10
    Very well written. I am the same age as you and about as many years experience and it is nice to to see someone state our situation so well. I sometimes see the new nurses who are already jaded and I think how sad it is, but I hope they too will see what a wonderful profession nursing really can be.
  6. by   juzme
    Well written highlandlass! Let's start something grassroots style and do something! like I said on another post, I am in! marching in Washington, something and in large numbers! Anyone who is involved in healthcare needs to stand up for our rights and our patients rights. I know more than a few nurses who have quit nursing all together because of the treatment of nurses, from staffing issues to pay....LET'S DO SOMETHING! The insurance companies and the bottom line people have highjacked healthcare, we need to take it back.!
  7. by   ♪♫ in my ♥
    I continue to shudder at how many nurses continue to advocate the "calling" idea and the notion that we're supposed to give our all for our patients, our own well-being be damned.

    As an older, experienced entrant into the practice, I've never bought into that notion. It is precisely that mentality which fosters the paternalistic and demeaning "not all angels have wings" attitude toward nurses and the idea that nurses are supposed to "sacrifice" for their patients, even as the folks at the top sacrifice nothing.

    Even in this very thread, the "it's a calling" mentality is promulgated.
  8. by   Chin up
    Brava! Now get to getting. This is what the profession needs, voices! Your article, best I have read, well done!!
  9. by   mmm333
    I'm just thinking about what this all means to me, a male RN- and conversely, what I mean to it. I chose nursing without really looking up salaries and such, but I didn't do it out some sense of duty either. It was more about self-actualization and the pursuit of personal excellence. Sure nursing is a place where one can do more justice on behalf of the individual than most lawyers are ever able to do. Sure there are moments of altruism and emotion. But mainly I was at a fork in the road in my career and spent some time reflecting on previous jobs that I either loved or disliked. The ones I had loved had a whole lot in common with nursing, and my strengths and skills correlated pretty well with nursing as well. Then I remembered taking a career and personality test in high school which recommended firefighter or RN as good fits. The choice was a no-brainer when I considered all of these factors and took more tests to confirm it. I made the decision like any other sober-minded professional chose their career path. In getting to know my "sisters" in nursing school, I did get the overwhelming impression that the majority of them made their decision similarly. Many of them added a good measure of "heart" to this formula, which I still believe is a good thing in nursing. But it was not the only factor at play. I think the "calling" and "angels in white" stuff was probably never much more than a myth. Even the women who tended to the ill in prisons in England (who were often convicted of crimes, etc.) were simply seeking a way to find dignity and a role which carried responsibility and offered them means. Wars offered greater opportunities to demonstrate their importance and capabilities. The image of nurse was clearly imposed on early nurses by other forces.
  10. by   highlandlass1592
    Quote from ♪♫ in my ♥
    I continue to shudder at how many nurses continue to advocate the "calling" idea and the notion that we're supposed to give our all for our patients, our own well-being be damned.

    As an older, experienced entrant into the practice, I've never bought into that notion. It is precisely that mentality which fosters the paternalistic and demeaning "not all angels have wings" attitude toward nurses and the idea that nurses are supposed to "sacrifice" for their patients, even as the folks at the top sacrifice nothing.

    Even in this very thread, the "it's a calling" mentality is promulgated.
    Actually, I am NOT promoting the idea of nursing being a calling. Far from it. I've reread the text mutiple times and show how I used to naively believe that farce but have come to realize the fallacy of that idea. I also discuess the idea of nurses being "angels", which is also a determinant to practice.
  11. by   ♪♫ in my ♥
    Quote from highlandlass1592
    actually, i am not promoting the idea of nursing being a calling.
    not you...

    Quote from harleypinkno15
    my heart and my salute goes out to all the nurses who have chosen this job because it was a calling and because the best interest was in the patient and not the money. don't get me wrong we all need an income but choose something else to do to make money if it is not in your heart.
    it's a career/job/trade/practice/profession... it's not a mission/calling/ministry... at least to me.

    (and i obviously had no idea what promulgated actually meant... my bad.)
    Last edit by ♪♫ in my ♥ on Mar 28, '11
  12. by   deemalt
    I am newer to the field and the stark reality of nursing in the trenches has sunk in. We are pushed to our limits with high patient acuities, the "cover our ass" mentality, lack of support from management, lack of respect from family members and sometimes patients, and lack of financial compensation in some cases.

    I can not help but to think that if this were a male dominated field, nurses would be better compensated and respected for the work that they do.( Don't over think that statement, I love my male coworkers and think that more males in the field would raise the bar for compensation). Look at other female dominated professions such as teachers - very similar situations.

    So... what do we do from here? What do we do to change the way we are perceived?
  13. by   mmm333
    I think he/she meant to say "within this website" - that's how I took it.
  14. by   gettingbsn2msn
    I just finished working overnight with a lady who believes nursing is a calling. She has worked 12 nights in a row. I asked her "why??". Her comment to me was "the hospital needs nurses so badly, we are so understaffed" I do not for the life of me get this mentality. This woman was so tired last night she could barely stand up. SHE IS ALSO COMING IN TONIGHT. She is somewhat of a saint. She does not take any breaks. She actually visits with other patients that she previously had. However, I believe that she is making herself sick. She does not look healthy. Our charge nurse is even worried about her. I told her last night if she keeps coming in everynight she won't even be around for the hospital. By the way, we make 18/hour. I know it cannot be for the money that motivates her.

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