June 25, 2007, 10:54 pm

Either Got It, or You Don’t…


Crepe paper?

The stuff I hang from my ceiling when someone graduates?

No way!

Let’s see what the advantages are…

Well, crepe paper can be used for 75% of all surgical dressings.

Okay. You’re totally out of luck if you’re one of the 25% that need gauze.

Hey! It saves fuel and labor! Way ahead of their time, they were! Had we stuck with crepe paper, why there would be no global warming!

It eliminates the washing of gauze! Uh…who washes gauze?

It also saves money. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it.

But I hope they didn’t use it on the, uh, bottom – that stuff falls apart when it gets wet and it can’t be comfortable if used in the nether regions.

I’m just sayin’

Wait a minute, doesn’t Dennison’s make chili? I’m going to have to look at the ingredients more closely!


What does it take to be a nurse?

In addition to education.

Nursing is comprised of every personality, temperment, gender, age and educational level.

The nurses in my own department form a kaleidoscope of these characteristics.

What is it that we share?

What about nursing allows people with varied backgrounds and education levels to come together and form a cohesive team?

Underneath all the differences, there are basic traits that form the foundation of the nursing profession. Those who have these traits will be nurses. Those who don’t will find that they are not drawn to the profession.



  • No matter what specialty you aspire to, a nurse needs to be flexible. Dealing with human beings is never an exact science. Even nurses whose jobs have a definite “routine” will occasionally have to accommodate a want or a need or take care of an urgent/emergent matter.

Work ethic.

  • Nurses work hard. If they slack off, their patients suffer and their co-workers have to pick up their slack. Nursing school will usually weed out the slackers, although I’ve worked with a few. Heck, I’ve been one a few times. Your co-workers will call you on it, trust me.


  • One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my 29 years of nursing is the increase in older nursing graduates. Perhaps there are some high school graduates mature enough to take on a program right out of high school. I was not one of them. Somehow I managed to “grow up” along with my skills, but I sure think some life experience prior to nursing school is a huge plus. You are dealing with life and death on a daily basis. It helps if you bring some maturity to the table. If you don’t, you will gain that maturity “on the job”.


  • You need to want to know. You need to want to learn. Nursing school teaches you how to think like a nurse and you learn how to be a nurse on the job. When that uneasy gut feeling shows up and you somehow just know something is wrong, this is what will make you turn around and check that patient one more time.


  • Nursing takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally. You have to be able to “go the distance”. To put one foot in front of the other when you are exhausted. For example, in ER you have to mentally detach from the teenager who just died in one room to attend to the frightened mother of a toddler with a fever of 100 degrees across the hall. Which brings us to the next thing you will find nurses share…

Outside interests

  • You have to be able to tune in to something you love, turn on your ability to enjoy life and tune out nursing. And no, I’m not channeling Timothy Leary. It’s imperative that you have hobbies/passions outside of work. A successful nurse recognizes that all work and no play makes for a burnt-out soul. And they are NO fun to work with. Don’t believe me? I have some old co-workers you can meet!


I’m sure there are some traits that I am missing; this list is far from comprehensive.

If you aren’t a nurse and you see yourself possessing some of these characteristics, consider joining the ranks! We need you desperately! There is no job that will work you harder and no job that can give you as much satisfaction at the end of the day.

If you are a nurse, what did I miss? What traits do you consider indispensable to nursing?


  • POPT

    June 26, 2007 at 7:28 am

    A genuine interest in other people, a strong back, a cast iron stomach, a 10 gallon bladder, and a well developed sense of humor.

    Thanks for the link, Kim!

  • NPs Save Lives

    June 26, 2007 at 9:13 am

    I agree with everything you posted and also with POPT! Nursing is a calling. I truly believe that. One needs to be a nurse because they genuinely care about patients.

  • Christina

    June 26, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Hi Kim- I agree with all of your list as well as POPT’s- except for the cast iron stomach. I’ve had excellent potential nurses say to me “I really want to be a nurse- I just don’t think I can handle the gross stuff” I always encourage them that this can be overcome- to not let this prevent them from being a nurse.

    First of all- they always need to have food in their stomach when around blood, an open wound, etc. I worked in burns/trauma for years- and if I didn’t have time to eat something more substantial, I’d at least take a few bites of an energy bar or a bit of trail mix before a big wound care. This is crucial- (esp if you haven’t had your lunch yet). Then I also assure them that watching a procedure (as is what more often happens in nursing school- leading people to falsely believe they cant be around wounds) is much different than doing- when you are doing you just generally focus on the task at hand and it just doesn’t make you queasy when you have something to do. And lastly, if you really think you can’t be around much blood or guts, there are so many other options in nursing that it is totally possible to find a great job with a minimum of “gross” stuff exposure.

    I just wanted to encourage anyone who is considering nursing but worried about their stomach!
    Keep up the great blog Kim.

  • Nurse K

    June 27, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Well, nowadays, you need to be reasonably intelligent and/or work hard to get into nursing school, at least in my state. For instance, my 4-year program was only taking people with entrance GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Two-year programs in the area were nearly as competitive. The demand to get in far outweighs the available spots in any program (maybe 400 or 500 applicants for 95 spots) around here anyway. “Desire to help the ill” is no longer all it takes.

  • Beth

    June 27, 2007 at 9:27 am

    Once again, Kim, you’ve hit the nail on the head. A long time ago I thought one of the major things required to being a nurse was the ability to not get woozy around blood (a quality that I did not posess.) Turns out that was one of the easy qualities to develop!

  • Nurse Betty

    June 27, 2007 at 9:58 am

    A sense of humor, dude. I wouldn’t have lasted 1 year, much less 20+, in this profession without it. Nursing is just Theater of the Absurd most days, and without a sense of humor, you’ll miss all the unintentional hilarity that can get you through the tougher, more serious moments.

  • oncRN

    June 28, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Agree with all above – especially sense of humor. You forgot to mention the need for a Bladder of Steel. Going 12 hours without peeing should be part of the entrance exam.

  • Max

    June 29, 2007 at 3:39 am

    Great post as per usual Kim.
    I think we should mention the Oscar award winning performance we sometimes need, it links in with “Endurance”. Showing a real enthusiam in someone with a common minor ailment, when you’ve just called the mortury to collect your previous patient.

  • AlisonH

    July 1, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    May I pop in here to thank the nurse I’ll never meet and whose name I’ll never know near Atlanta who just had a feeling, walked back into my sister’s hospital room, checked on her and saved her life? Anne had her blood pressure suddenly skyrocket a la toxemia a few minutes *after* giving birth to twins 13 years ago. She’d been fine a moment earlier, but the nurse came back in and checked her bp. Because she simply had a feeling.

  • Grief » The NJO Blog

    July 10, 2007 at 5:01 am

    […] context for grief is a tool, not a diagnosis. Recently, Kim at Emergiblog said that one of the key ingredients of a nurse was flexibility. She didn’t mean you should be able to touch your toes. Having an open mind is […]

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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