The Wise Nurse Speaks

If nursing doesn't make one an expert on human nature, nothing does. Here are some thoughts on the truths I've discovered during the course of my career that have served me well, not only in the workplace but in everyday life. May we all pursue wisdom and greater understanding of the humanity in us all.


  • Long Term Care Columnist / Guide
    Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.
The Wise Nurse Speaks

From the Book of Wisdom (which is one of the books in the Apocrypha of the Old Testament): "Wisdom is glorious, and never fades away, and is easily seen by those who love her and is found by those who seek her......For she goes about seeking such as are worthy of her, and she shows herself to them cheerfully in the ways, and meets them with all providence."

In more down-to-earth terms: If nursing doesn't make one something of an expert on human nature, nothing does. And if we don't learn something new every single day that we work with human beings, we're not doing it right.

As a student of life, I am perpetually in search of wisdom, and am never satisfied with the minuscule amount I possess. Becoming wise is an elusive goal, I've discovered; for the more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn. But with over 17 years of healthcare experience (not to mention many, many mistakes), I've come to understand a few basic truths about being a nurse......and being human.

For one, a little respect goes a long way. No matter how old or how young we are, no matter what our position in life, we all need---and deserve---respect. Just because we're mortal beings, and we ALL wander around on this little planet dazed and confused a good portion of the time. Respect should be our default position when dealing with our patients, our co-workers, our families; it should flow equally toward the VIP in the private room and the homeless alcoholic occupying a narrow gurney in the ER. After all, we are made in the same fashion, we have loved and been loved, and we will eventually die....which makes all of us kin.

For another, not everything is about us as individuals. It's so easy to slip into the habit of one-upping our co-workers, or even our patients, with a statement such as "Don't feel bad---you should see what happened to ME when I got sick with what you've got." When we are ill, downcast, or in pain, the last thing we want to hear is how much worse someone else has it. We want comfort; we want reassurance that our needs will be met.

Accordingly, we don't need to be judged or shamed unless it is clear that we've done something morally wrong, and even then, judgment and shaming are often counterproductive in preventing recurrence of the troublesome behavior. For despite the means available to help people with various "lifestyle" illnesses, no one asks to be obese. No one grows up aspiring to be an alcoholic or addict. No one wants to be chronically short of breath, unable to perform routine ADLs without gasping for air. And no one, but no one asks the good Lord to challenge him or her with a mental illness. Life is hard enough for people with these conditions; stigmatizing them only produces more suffering. Where is the compassion in that, nurses?

And speaking of compassion: It doesn't take self-sacrifice or an attitude of "I must be all things to all people" to be of service to our companions on life's journey. So many nurses seem to think they have to be available to their employers all the time, and that as long as their patients can see them, all will be well. So they hold their pee all day long, neglect their bodies' need for nourishment and hydration, and fail to delegate non-nursing tasks to those who can and should perform them. How I wish that patients, management, and nurses themselves would understand that we cannot pour from an empty vessel! We cannot give the healing energies that we lack ourselves. Why do we keep trying?

It's taken almost fifty-four years of living, but I have at last come to the conclusion that most human misery---including my own---is self-imposed. It's time to try some kinder and gentler approaches to the problems which plague us.....and so I will continue the pursuit of Wisdom as my life and career enter their twilight years, in the hope that one day she will show herself to me and find me worthy.

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

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country mom

379 Posts

Has 16 years experience.

There is so much truth in what you have written. "You cannot pour from an empty vessel"- that is a pearl I'm going to remember. Excellent piece, thank you.

Specializes in Corrections, neurology, dialysis. Has 15 years experience.

Oh I hear you about delegating the non-nursing tasks. I spent too much time helping the techs then I realized that, while I can help them with their work, they can't help me with mine. I had to learn to back off.


39 Posts

Specializes in PCU/Telemetry.

You must have been reading my mind!!! I've only been a nurse for 1.5 years but I couldn't agree more w/ everything you've said here. These are all things I have been learning in my relatively new career as a nurse. I too have found that the more I know about life, the less I know, yet the search for wisdom continues. I especially love your points about not stigmatizing ANYONE, not telling people "Well, it could be so much worse" b/c that is truly incredibly unhelpful, & reminding nurses to take care of themselves too.

BostonTerrierLover, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 908 Posts

Specializes in Adult/Ped Emergency and Trauma. Has 16 years experience.

This is exactly why I am in sooooooooo much debt to the Nurses who came before me. Everything I enjoy about Nursing was earned from the sweat off their backs, their never ending fight to make this a respected profession, and the aches of their feet endlessly serving patients, family members, and other Healthcare Professionals with high quality, high effienciency care. I remember this when I punch in for a sit-down report, take a mandated break, that I don't have to get up when a doctor enters- or give him my chair(though I still do-I don't HAVE TO; And who could forget when I compare my paycheck to my grandmother's(even considering inflation 1957 $1.20/hr. Nurses can now take Maternity Leave because you knew the importance of that time as you taught it to your patients. I can take leave for an Educational Trip, or go on a paid vacation. I am called a Healthcare Professional just because you demanded that respect, in respect of your wealth of wisdom. I have a "Nurses Lounge, Staff Restroom, and better forms for documentation(they didn't just GIVE us these things- you gave them to us because you had to do without these luxuries).

Yes, I would be so far off the mark to say most of my "Wisdom" was of my own learning. No, It has come from "inherited" trial and error, Never-ending Care, and Constant Improvement to a Wonderful yet Challenging Profession that is NOT easy to enter, NOT easy to understand or explain, and NOT easy to practice. I am grateful for the wisdom you Seasoned Nurses have passed down to us, letting us learn from your mistakes, your triumphs, and your most valuable advice on today's issues from a wealth of decades of practice. You will never be forgotten in my eagerness to keep learning. Know that you are appreciated, and we are listening to the wisdom you have shared with us, and are continuing to keep that lamp burning bright, and ultimately we'll pass it on to the next generation, thus, you are immortal.

Specializes in LTC and School Health.

Thank you for your wisdom. I took everything you wrote to heart.


5 Posts

I'm so happy and blessed that I was able to find a job outside of LTC. I make 50 cent more on the hour sitting on my butt pre loading patient hx into the EHR system for the hospital. I been a LPN for 6 years now and LTC is all I know and I felt stuck. But now I'm looking forward to upgrading my license to RN. Just recently registered for classes for the LPN to RN bridge at JCC. Can't wait to get started in January. The only way I will be back in a nursing home is if I'm the DON or the Administrator so I can have some type of say so in patient care and run a nursing home the way I feel best for the resident's.


5 Posts

I hope everybody have a great thanksgiving and holiday weekend

Has 3 years experience.

I love this article you wrote so much that I am actually tearing up a bit. The basis of this is why I became a nurse in the first place. You describe it so perfectly. :) As they always say, "The more you see, the less you know." Hmm, actually those might be song lyrics..


116 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

Absolutely love this! Thank you for your wise words :) Will try to keep this mind everyday.


3 Posts

Viva, she has found you, found you worthy, and is not only smiling upon you, but beaming with pride that you understand her so well!!! Nicely put nurse!