Having worked as a psychiatric nurse, I’m very interested in the field of mental health. Dr. Deborah Serani , a psychologist (and blogger) specializing in trauma and depression, reminds us that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Check out her blog at the link above for information on the National Depression Screening Day scheduled for October 6, 2005 (today!) in locations in both the United States and Canada.
In my search for nursing ephemera I’ve found many images and slogans. Some are funny, some are serious. Some are just plain corny. I was attracted to this poster because it speaks of finding self through service to others; a rather profound philosophy to sum up in one sentence.
I have always felt that nursing was a “calling”, that the urge to care for the sick and the ability to do so was a gift from God. Everything I did, every class I took from the age of nine onward was geared to accomplish the goal of being a registered nurse. Without deviation. How many nine-year-olds are that focused? I was writing to diploma programs for catalogs by the time I was ten. I could not believe I was accepted to the first program I applied to, nearly just out of high school. As I entered the field and worked as a nurse there were times I fought it, times I hated it, times I wished I could do anything else, but instinctively I always knew that it was what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
So it was illuminating to find out that this was not the standard experience of other nurses!
Interestingly, some men I know, who chose nursing as a second or third career, were attracted to the pay, the job security and the flexibility of hours. No sense of a “calling” there at all. Hmmm. What about the women? Well, one says she can’t remember a time that she didn’t want to be a nurse but never felt it was any kind of a spiritual calling. Another had such a wretched experience watching incompetent nurses deal with the death of a relative that as a teenager she thought, “I can do better”. And she does! She is a great nurse, loves her job, but never thought of it as a “calling” per se. My last “interviewee” said she made the decision at the age of 18 but it was a rational decision to focus on that area of study. No “calling” involved.
So gee, is it just me? These old posters and vintage photos depict nursing as a “noble” profession; maybe I was just born 20 years too late or never got over my “CherryAmesItis”. I know it was never addressed in my training. No classes on the history of nursing or the contributions of nurses to society. The more modern recruitment campaigns (“If caring were enough, anyone could be a nurse.” ) surely don’t focus on it. And compare this ad to the one above. “Because I’m A Nurse”? What, I can stand there with my arms crossed looking like a
bad-ass-don’t-mess-with-me chick? This poster was up in our ER and I was trying to understand what the message was.
It certainly wasn’t about finding yourself through caring for others.
Someone who is into nursing only for the money, the benefits, the hours and the flexibility won’t last a year in this profession. They had better be into nursing for the patients because that is where the entire heart of the profession resides. I would like to see this fact mirrored in the recruitment drives because while there are wonderful, tangible benefits to the job, it’s the ability to care and to translate that care into action that makes the profession a vocation. Because it isn’t true that if caring were enough, anyone could be a nurse.
It takes a unique person to “care” the way a nurse cares.