I often get asked, “Oh, so you’re a nurse. What exactly do you do? “Well, Nursing is a combination of science, technology coupled with caring and compassion. It involves medical and scientific know-how as well an ability to empathize and give care to patients. Becoming a nurse does take hard work and dedication; becoming licensed requires a degree of schooling, both practicum and in-class, and then you must successfully pass a state board examination. Once employed, nurses have to continue learning to adapt and keep up with the latest medical findings and nursing sciences. So, this sounds like a lot of hard work. And, we all know that patients and their families, as well as physicians, can be hard to work with. So, why did I become a Registered Nurse? And, why do I love doing what I do? Maybe this will help explain the sincere passion that I have for “doing what I do:”
· The Patients: Some of the most unique and compelling people whom I have met have been my patients. It is so fulfilling to interact with them and to view their coping strategies. It is equally rewarding to feel, at the end of the day, as if I have really made a difference.
· The Families: I have never experienced such a sense of sincere appreciation as I have experienced in nursing. Families and their patients are so appreciative of “you” and of what you do.
· The Satisfaction: Whether it be learning from other nurses or physicians, whether it be teaching a student, or whether it be improved patient outcomes-the satisfaction that comes with being a nurse is beyond compare.
· The Learning: In what other profession do you constantly learn? In nursing, you are always learning; there is always a need for new ideas and innovation. Furthermore, there is the possibility for higher learning and degree advancement.
· The Variety: As a nurse, I never know what kind of day I might have. And, I like that variety. Some days might be busier than others, and some days might be extremely slow. And, there is a variety of practice settings. Nurses can work in the hospital, in the community, in research, or in the workplace.
· The Teamwork: The teamwork that goes on in healthcare is beyond compare. In no other arena will you find, nurses, doctors, case management, therapists, and ancillary staff all working together to achieve a common goal: patient wellness.
· The Critical Thinking: Yes, there is a lot of critical thinking and planning that goes on in nursing. And, that is what defines it as a profession. Nurses always have to be thinking: we are constantly prioritizing and planning. Sure, it is challenging at times, but that makes the profession so great.
· The Teaching: Many times we forget that we are teachers. We teach patients and families, and we teach unlicensed staff who are aspiring to further their education. In that regard we are mentors, too. But, we teach patients and families how to manage their disease process, and we teach other staff members-whether it is unlicensed staff or new graduates. We are often mentors, too.
· The Potential for Advancement: In some professions, there might not be a recognizable potential for advancement, but in Nursing there is. In many areas there is a clinical ladder whereby a nurse can demonstrate her learning, her level of competency and her efforts and progress up the ladder. This progression equates to prestige and increased pay. I have always viewed this “ ladder” as a parallel of Patricia Benner’s depiction of the path from “Novice to Expert” (Patiricia Benner, 1984), in many of her works.
· Job Security: I recognize that they are many depictions of nursing shortages. But, even in a bad economy, it can be relatively easy for a nurse with an associate’s degree and little experience can easily get a job. And, as long as people get sick, there will always be a need for nurses.
These are just several reasons why, I love being a nurse. I often share that when I was young; I never was attracted to healthcare, much less nursing. But, my Mother, who is the most compassionate soul I know, urged me to get involved in nursing. And, I finally followed her suggestion; enrolling in the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia, obtaining my BSN, and my nursing license, and practicing have been the best decisions I have ever made-these previously mentioned reasons are just a few of the reasons why I enjoy doing what I do.
Jennifer Ward, RN BSN is a Registered Nurse residing in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jennifer obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Science from Indiana University in 1997, and she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Virginia in 2000. Since that time she has been working in Med/Surg and Oncology. She is a certified Med/Surg Nurse, and she is a member of both The Medical Surgical Nurses Association and the Oncology Nurses Society. She is currently in pursuit of her Acute Care Nurse Practitioner’s Certification from the University of Virginia. Her scope of practice is primarily with older adults; she is passionate about pain management strategies, wound care treatment modalities, patient satisfaction, and nursing legislation.