December 12, 2006, 2:07 am

You Can’t Start A Fire Without A Spark


Okay, I remember these dresses.

How on earth did we ever bend over?

I had one gorgeous uniform with a full skirt; all it needed was a blazer and white pumps and I was ready for a night on the town.

Theoretically speaking. After eight hours in intensive care all I wanted was a hot bath and my sweats.

I loved that dress.

Had totally cool shoes, too.

Good lord, I haven’t shown that much leg in 20 years!


Well, I am losing the scrub color debate! Right now it is Kim: 1 vs. Anything But White: 19,557!

Lots of great email and comments so far! DK shared the “pink thong under the scrub” story, but my colleagues are safe – I don’t own any thongs.

Intentional wedgies have never been my thing.

I do remember a colleague who wore red undies under her white uniform, though. Remember the underwear that had the days of the week printed on them? Like you needed a reminder to change them regularly?

If my memory serves me correct, this particular nurse was wearing “Thursday”.

Another commenter (Randall) suggested unisex berets and twelve-inch RN embroidered on my chest. I immediately added his link to my blogroll. Anyone who can make me do a spit-take in a comment deserves a link! (Under the Mosquito Net)

So the trick here will be to take myself seriously without taking myself too seriously.

The experiment shall commence upon receipt of my white scrubs and lab coat (I’m not totally out of my mind – gotta cover the darn things so they don’t get dirty!)

I find it ironic that it’s the students who now wear the white and the nurses who wear the colors. Back in dem ‘ol days, it was the reverse!


The inspiration for this title came from Ian over at ImpactED Nurse after I put it through a Bruce Springsteen filter.

I’m tellin’ ya, if you are ever at a loss for what to write, start reading some other blogs and you will get an inspiration within 5 minutes.


None of my children went into nursing.

One is in law school, one works in public relations and it looks like my youngest wants a career as a counselor.

My sister has two kids who have decided on nursing. One is already an RN and now my nephew is taking the pre-requisites required for the nursing program.

I realized today why her kids followed in her footsteps and mine got as far away from nursing as they could.


I’m the reason none of my three children ever even considered nursing as a profession.


The resurgence of enthusiasm that I feel for my profession and that I reflect on this blog was not always in evidence throughout my entire career.

To put it bluntly, there were periods of time where I hated my job. When I was so far into burn-out I didn’t think there was any way out. I felt trapped, resentful. I knew I was meant to be a nurse but couldn’t pull myself through the mire of funk.

I was very verbal about my discontent. At home. Around my kids.

To them, being a nurse meant that mom had to leave them every night, every evening – at least five days a week, and go to a job she hated.

Now of course, Daddy was home so I never felt guilty about working – I was spared the child care troubles that so many of my colleagues had to deal with. Hubby worked days, and I worked evenings/nights.

But I had to work. I was the one with the benefits. And until relatively recently (early 1990s), there was no such thing as part-time with benefits.

I never knew how my working affected the kids until recently, when I found a cologne I used to wear in the ’80s. My oldest daughter noted it and said that particular scent made her sad.

She said it reminded her of my working and she was always sad when I left. It felt like I had been hit in the chest.

Here we have a situation where the kids see nursing as a not-so-fun job that takes mommy away on a regular basis.

I never encouraged them to think about nursing. In fact, for the majority of their formative years I bemoaned the fact that I had to work, that all I could do was nursing and that if I had my druthers I’d have been a stay-at-home mom.

Not exactly the type of environment that lights a spark.


In contrast, my sister’s kids watched first their dad and then my sister go through a nursing program. The entire time they were growing up, they had one parent or the other in nursing school.

They saw the enthusiasm that my sister and brother-in-law had for becoming nurses. Saw them study and work hard.

They saw how having nurses as parents made a difference in their life.

They saw how much my sister and her husband loved their jobs.

And two of the four kids thought, you know, that might be something I want to do. One already has. And one is on his way.

Their parents provided the spark that started them on the path to becoming a nurse.


I juxtaposed my experience with my sister’s story to make a point.

People are listening to how we talk about our profession. Kids are listening. Our kids are listening.

We need to be positive about the profession. Be aware of how we sound, what we say, how we portray what we do to the public and to our families.

Nursing is not a perfect profession but it is a good one and we need to give that message to anyone who will hear it.

We need to be the spark that lights the fire in the heart of the next generation of nurses.


Epilogue: I actually asked my kids about why they didn’t go into nursing.

My oldest daughter has an aversion to body fluids and “really doesn’t find the work all that appealing”.

My son has wanted to be President of the United States since he was six (seriously) and did not think nursing was the route to the White House. (Hmmm….he could have been the President and the National Nurse at the same time!)

My youngest believes she has a knack for listening and understanding other people’s problems and wants to parlay that into a career in psychology.

So, according to them, my periods through the “dark side” of nursing didn’t influence their career decisions in any way, other than they didn’t like the fact I had to work so much.

That made me feel better. But I’ll always wonder….

If I could have just gotten them to read Cherry Ames…….


  • Jo

    December 12, 2006 at 6:16 am

    It’s because of you that I dumped all my print scrubs when I graduated and bought all solid colors. I do show up in some that may have a different color piping aling the seams…but they are still solids. I just didn’t feel Nursey in my celestial Moon and sun scrubs.

    My 5 year old daughter told her teacher she wanted to be a nurse like her Momma. When asked why, she told her she wanted to help sick people.

    We’ll see how long that sticks, I hope it does.

  • Kim

    December 12, 2006 at 7:35 am

    Kimmie the nurse! MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA ahhhh whew! *wipes tears from eyes* That was awesome!! I cannot abide the print scrub tops (or pants, the matching set looks like jammies). I am looking for the oldschool blue/green that the O/R docs wore. Love those. Asked for some for Christmas.
    Now for your lesson in Suthun, the plural of y’all is all y’all. Learned it during the first church service I went to when we got here in THE SOUTH (always to be capitalized). I miss You Guys in California where people talk good.

  • A Bohemian Road Nurse...

    December 12, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    I read Cherry Ames, too!

  • jen

    December 12, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    my son wants to be a nurse…….so that he can eat lunch with me. if he only knew…….

  • medic5

    December 13, 2006 at 4:34 am

    Kim: Given your interest in the role of nurses, I thought that you might find interesting an article in the Washington Post called “Teaching Hospitals How To Listen.” The entire article is good for those of us who work in or with hospitals; we need to remember always that if our policies don’t benefit patients, they are the wrong policies. I thought might enjoy in particular, though, the paragraph discussing the patient’s best experience: “Sylvia’s gold standard for how hospitals should function was an experience she had soon after her sarcoma was diagnosed — an inpatient admission for radiation therapy at Sibley Memorial Hospital…she insisted that the head nurse for that unit — a woman whom she called “the nurse with the white hat” — had established a system that made patients feel confident that their needs would be met. The most important rule was that if a patient rang a call button, the staff member nearest to the patient’s room — whether a nurse, a technician or a janitor — would respond immediately.”

    That reference to “the nurse with the white hat” brings to mind the image of the old-style nurse who wore her cap. And talk about patient-centered care – if the patient calls for help, respond. Quickly. What an amazing concept. Another great point is that the definition of “an emergency” varies based on who is experiencing the emergency. The fact that, to the caregivers’ mind, this can wait, does not diminish its perception by the patient. There is a great deal for us to learn from this article, if we are open and willing to reflect.

  • Drunkbunny

    December 13, 2006 at 4:55 am

    I’d never let any female I care about go into nursing. It is still a career that treats the males much, much better. They still get better jobs, better pay, more chance of promotion, MUCH less verbal abuse, and most of all MORE RESPECT.

    If I had a daughter who wanted to be a nurse, I’d refuse to help her with college. I feel that strongly that nursing is a horrible career choice. I had to fight for years, move 500 miles away from home, and pursue an MBA before I could get away from bedside nursing. Once you’re a nurse, no one gives you a chance to do anything else. Also, your bachelor’s degree is treated like a joke.

    Nurses never get credit for the knowledge it takes to do their job, or the responsibility of the job itself. Also, what other career do you have to work two jobs for your entire life just to earn a decent living?

    Be glad your kids are pursuing other interests.

  • Candy

    December 13, 2006 at 6:08 am

    Neither of my kids followed my dream either — they’re both writers, following my career instead.

    Drunkbunny, you could earn very good pay in California, even at one job…

  • ~RN Faye

    December 13, 2006 at 11:46 am

    I was neither inspired or “called” to be a professional nurse. I chose to enter the profession because I did not know what else to do at the time! In retrospect, it was the best decision that I EVER made. Health Care is so vast that there is a place for nurses in every aspect of it. International health, policy, law, research, teaching, critical care, entrepreneurship, business, blogging etc. What other profession can do this? We should decide what we do with our profession and not let others decide it for us.

    As far as respect, in general people do not give it because they are inherently good. We earn it, we demand it, and I know that every patient who has been cared for and saved by a nurse does grant us this respect.

  • unsinkablemb

    December 13, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Enjoyed your post. It’s interesting to see the different perspectives on choosing nursing as a career. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong. It’s what will make the individual person happy.

    I was in Corporate America, got laid off, and went into nursing. Worked as a nurse, then returned to business. Now I want to go back to nursing. Knowing both sides, I can honestly say, that there is NO EASY JOB. Maybe it’s easier when you can say that what you do, in the grand scheme of things, really makes a difference. That’s nursing.

  • Deacon Barry

    December 14, 2006 at 5:01 am

    Here in Scotland, staff nurses wear white – either tunics or dresses, depending on choice. Tunics are worn with blue trousers if you’re a girl or black/grey trousers if you’re a boy. Theatre staff wear blue scrubs. Support workers also wear white tunics, as do students. To differentiate, there are different colours of epaulettes – brown for support workers, blue for staff nurses, and burgundy for nurse practitioners. Sisters wear blue dresses.
    The only cartoon animals to be seen adorning a uniform is on the tabard of one of our nurse practitioners when she’s taking the childrens’ clinic.

  • […] and remembers the nurses and other medical professionals she got to Blue, The Gimp ParadeYou Can’t Start A Fire Without A SparkSure it’s important to promote a positive view of nursing with examples of what to do, but […]

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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