When you care enough, you’ll thank a nurse

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.


The only time I wore my nursing cap was at my pinning ceremony

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.

Kelley getting PhD revised

My daughter-in-law, Dr. Kelley Strout, PhD, MSN, BSN with her mentor Dr. Elizabeth P. Howard, PhD, MSN, BSN. Kelley is a nursing professor, shaping the future of nursing.

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 the 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 the promise of job security influenced my career choice, 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.

I’ve endured.

Congratulate a nurse 

I hope you will congratulate the nurses you know for a job well done not only on May 6, National Nurses Day, but every day of the year.

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?

Photo credit: depositphotos: Copyright:pressmaste
©2016, Stevens. All rights reserved.

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22 thoughts on “When you care enough, you’ll thank a nurse”

  1. If you have ever been hospitalized or visited in a long term care facility, you would quickly realize that nurses are angels walking the earth. Their care for you will make all the difference in your recovery – and I am married to a Doctor who heartily agrees with this comment.

    • You have a winner on your hands, Bernadette, since doctors who recognize the value of nurses are the best doctors in the business. Thank you for your kind words regarding my beloved profession. I tried to retire and even set a date but couldn’t do it! So I’m going to keep working but will cut down on my hours to only 2 days/week starting last week of September. XO

  2. I don’t think it matters much WHY you chose to become a nurse. If you’ve stayed with it for any length of time, then you’ve likely helped hosts of people in times that were frightening and uncomfortable, and for that you deserve a bit of praise. I spent a decade in the healthcare field, so I know what it means to do the daunting, physically and emotionally draining job — on the third shift, too! Kudos to you and all who “heal” for a living.

    • I agree, Rica. How we come to the profession doesn’t matter as much as why we stay in it. I kind of wish I had put that in my blog. Next year I’ll add it. BTW, the third shift is the worst!

  3. Hi Molly! I’m not a nurse but I am so very grateful for the nurses I’ve had in my life! I have witnessed how difficult and challenging your profession is and I want to thank every single one of you for the work you do to help and support the rest of us when we need you. While doctors sometimes get the glory, it is the nurses that make our journey to healing so much better. Thank you again and please know that you are appreciated! ~Kathy

  4. Thank you, Molly, for singing deserved praises for nurses everywhere. I would like to thank
    the intensive care nurse who helped me ‘breathe’ and gave support and comfort until rescuers arrived after a car crash in 2007. She just happened to live across the street from the accident site and was the first person to arrive on the scene!! Happy Nurses Day to all our dedicated, caring nurses. You are appreciated.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Sharon. I am certainly grateful there was a nurse nearby to care for you at the scene of that crash in 2007. I have never wanted to work in emergency medicine and am so happy there are those who do. God was looking out for you, wasn’t he?

  5. I’m not a nurse but am married to one, a terrific nurse! You nurses can not only always get a job, it can be anywhere in the world! And it pays well too, don’t forget that. If you have a heart attack and end up in Cardiac Care or you have a premature child who winds up in the NICU, you not only want your nurse very proficient but you definitely want her well paid!

  6. I grew up on a dairy/potato farm in Aroostook County and in the 60’s a young lady was a rare creature to want to go to college. My choices could have been to become a farmer’s wife , a secretary, work at Woolworth’s or maybe go to college and become a teacher or nurse. Nursing was my choice after a childhood of caring for animals, and watching grandparents grow old and endure many medical issues that were devastating to a young girl. I went far away to Bangor to nursing school and began a career that spanned 45 years at that same hospital. I found so much more than just caring for people (which was always the reason anyone would want to become a nurse) back then. I gained so many life’s lessons-living with a tribe of women who were not BAPTIST, who smoked, drank alcohol, dated men from Husson College and had many different upbringings. I admit I tried many of these things and lived to tell about it.. Many of those same women are my closest friends and we meet every year. I learned about compassion, empathy, the power of prayer and being with those who were waiting to die. Such a gift from those people!. I was afforded an incredible career that took me places I could have never imagined would happen when I left the “County”. I worked 25 years in Intensive Care which then led to helping to establish transport medicine and my becoming a Flight Nurse for nearly 12 years. Then I picked up another stint in Emergency Nursing for 5 years before retiring. I have done Hospice Nursing and currently School Nursing. So many opportunities -not just because I wanted to help people, but because opportunities were there that gave me so many wonderful experiences to experience what it is like to be a nurse. I have a son in law and a daughter in law who are nurses who make me proud every day for the work they do for their patients. I was so blessed to have chosen this profession, and felt very loved every time someone thanked me for being a nurse and said “Happy Nurses’ Day.

    • Oh, Carol, thank you for sharing your pathway to nursing. I love the idea of a young country girl from Aroostook landing in the big city with all its vices and temptations. What an exceptional nurse and human being you are, and I am privileged to know you. What a career you have had. And thank you for reminding me of Woolworth’s. I loved that store, but I’m glad I didn’t end up working there, aren’t you? Happy Nurses Day back at you.xoxo

  7. Thank-you, Molly. Not only for calling attention to National Nurses Day/Week, but most importantly thank-you for all the souls you have comforted with your care and expertise. You are a credit to your profession, your family, and your community.

  8. I became a nurse for several reasons. As I think back 35 years or so, which is about when I was making my choice for college, I was inclined to become a teacher. At that time, teachers had difficulty finding jobs. So the older members of my family suggested that I become a nurse. (In my family, the women were teachers or nurses.)

    I imagined myself as a nurse taking care of families in the backwoods, possibly even reaching them by horseback. My heroines were Mary Breckinridge and Lillian Wald. Since I enjoyed science classes more than general business classes, and I felt called to help people in some way, I enrolled in nursing school.

    The reality was far different from my imagination. Although at times I wondered what there was to like about nursing, it never occurred to me to change my plan. I was ecstatic when the final two quarters of nursing school came along because it turned out that I really enjoyed obstetrics and pediatrics – working with families.

    When I returned to university a few years later to earn my bachelor’s degree, I learned about public health, and I fell in love again. I found one of the best jobs ever, as a public health nurse working in a generally rural county, with a subspecialty of working with mothers and children. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like my teenager imagination – minus the horseback riding.

    Now I teach public health clinical to university students – combining the best of nursing with my original desire of teaching. I am also a freelance writer, fulfilling another childhood desire of pecking out stories (on a computer instead of a manual typewriter). With a husband who is also in public health and three daughters, I have a very full and blessed life.

    • You have just illustrated how diverse nursing is, Crystal, and how many options there can be for someone to follow their passion in this field. I’m so happy you found the niche that fired you up, and fulfilled a form of your childhood dreams. It was great connecting with you at Erma’s workshop, and we know it was meant to be. 🙂 Isn’t it great to meet another nurse writer?