February 19, 2009, 3:18 pm

The Nursing Profession: Absolutely Nuts or Totally Unique?

I absolutely adore this picture!

I’m not sure if the doctor is incredulous over something she said, or just deep in conversation!

The nurse is Celia “Barkie” Williams.

Her nickname was Barkie and from what little information I can find she was well loved by her colleagues, was into antique autos and was photographed in the 1950s in a dress her mother had in 1880!

Where the name “Barkie” came from, I’m afraid to ask!

This photo, taken by Thomas D. Macavoy for Life Magazine is dated 1960 and was taken in Cottonwood, Arizona.

Nurse Barkie looks at least 70 in this photo.

I wonder where she went to school? How long did she practice?

I bet she could have told some stories.

I tried, just for the heck of it, to google her name and I found her! At least I know her first name, but that is about all I could get. Would have liked to know more about her.

I’m not even going to mention the wrinkled cap; any nurse still working at the age of 70 can wear her cap any way she wants!


Change of Shift if up at This Crazy Miracle Called Life! Many thanks to Amanda for hosting this edition! The next edition will be at The Nurse Practitioner’s Place, so be sure to check her site for info!


Nursing is an extremely interesting profession.

It’s either absolutely off the deep end or it’s totally unique.

From the entry levels of practice to the terminal degrees available, nursing doesn’t look like, act like or educate like any other profession.

And it shouldn’t.

Because nursing isn’t like any other profession.


Let’s take entry level into practice. How’s that for jumping into the frying pan?

You can start nursing with an AA degree that should be two years but can’t really be done in two years so it’s actually more like three years with all the pre-requisites done first.


Or…you can go for a BS degree which takes four years and can actually be done in four years unless you have to go a summer session (like my daughter), which really makes it over four years. This is supposed to be the desired entry level for practice. HOLD YOUR FIRE, I SAID “SUPPOSED TO BE”!


If you already have a BS or a BA degree, you can go into an entry level Master’s Degree program because it is really dumb to go back and get an AA degree because you already have a BS degree and you really don’t need one of those again, right, and the MS degree program is only 12 – 18 months.

And somehow through all this, you have become an RN.


But…now you are wondering if you should go for a higher degree….



If you have an AA and you want to get your BSN you can go back to school either on campus or online, for which you will pay a lot of money as there are a lot of RN-to-BSN programs out there to help you if you think maybe you should do it as the BSN is SUPPOSED to be the desired degree and you feel as though it is your professional duty to do it, but you won’t get any more money for it or anything, but you will have BSN after your name which, if you are like me, is worth every penny and every bead of sweat….

Sorry, I digress…

Or, if you want to do something other that bedside nursing you can take that BSN and get your BSN-to-MSN either on campus or online or if you are really ambitions you can go right for the RN-to-MSN programs since you have an AA degree under your belt and now you can be a manager or a nursing instructor or work in public health and make approximately 50% less than you did as a staff nurse, but hey, you are willing to sacrifice for your profession.


But it gets better!

You can take that BSN or MSN and head for a doctoral program if you really want to do research and teach, that would be a PhD, or wait!, you want to be an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner as they are called and now you have to have your doctoral degree when you only used to need an MSN but they changed the rules and now to do that you need a doctoral degree called the DNP, which is different from the PhD because it is a practice doctorate as opposed to a research doctorate…..


No wonder folks outside the profession think we’re off-the-wall.

But we aren’t.

We’re unique.

Our profession is flexible.

In spite of the light-hearted take on the educational opportunities, if you read between the lines what you see is that there is an entry level into nursing for everyone at any stage of their lives who are willing to work for that “RN” after their names.

What you see is an unbelievable number of opportunities to advance your education in a variety of ways. If you want it, it is available.  No four-year-undergrad-followed-by-three-years-graduate school, like lawyers. Unless that is what you want to do.  We have options. In that, we are unique.

What you see is a profession that has two terminal degrees in the PhD and DNP. Now, I’ve heard there is some controversy about this, having two doctoral pathways in nursing. I see it as flexibility in being able to receive a higher education that will take your career where you want it – to the classroom/research or to an increased responsibility for patient care.


Nursing does not have a lockstep education pattern. We don’t have a “one size fits all” education system because we don’t have “one size fits all” nursing opportunities.

And we most definitely don’t have “one size fits all” nursing personalities.

Think about it. Nursing allows changes in specialties. Unlike law or medicine, we can change our focus and switch our area of specialty long after we’ve entered the profession.


Sure, we argue and debate amongst ourselves. All the way from the best way to become a nurse down to whether or not we have one or two terminal degree options.

But folks, we’re all nurses. We are more alike than different and at our core we are solid.

So maybe we need to come together (Beatles reference!) and realize that all the different factions of nursing need to embrace the fact that we are nurses.

We can do that, I’m sure of it.

Because nursing is unique.

And that’s why we do what we do.


  • NurseExec

    February 19, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    LOVED this post. Nursing is unique, and that’s why I love it!

  • DebbieM

    February 19, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Loved the Blog! Just got my BSN after procrastinating for YEARS & getting a BS in Bio w/ a Chem Minor first.

    I myself LOVE Telemetry Patients b/c I want to work my way up the Cardiac Care Foodchain before I deside that whole MSN – DNP route.

    The state I was born in has a DNP in Healthcare / Nursing Innovation – ambiguously beautiful right?

    ANy way I will be peeking back from time totime to read this wonderful Blog site.
    BRAVO ER Nurse Divas: You are a Special Fabulous Breed!

    Debs in Indy

  • Healthcare Today

    February 20, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    The Nursing Profession: Absolutely Nuts or Totally Unique? // Emergiblog…

    Is nursing crazy or just unique?…

  • NPs Save Lives

    February 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    What a great post and with all that breakdown whew! I still get confused and I’m finished with my FNP. I still am holding out on the DNP though until I see some benefits to have it in Florida (like independent practice maybe?) without that, it’s just another degree to pay for. You know from past conversations just how much student loans I ended with and I don’t want to have to restart with any more until I get those down.

  • Mother Jones, RN

    February 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    That doctor better be careful. I bet Barkie bites. She reminds of me of my nursing instructors.

  • Nurse Ausmed

    February 21, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I choose to believe the cap is wrinkled thanks to the business end of a twelve hour shift!

  • Long Time NP

    February 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Seems the only thing missing is a way for long time RN’s to return to practice. For those who stepped away from active practice there are few options for re-entry. Universities would rather focus on establishing doctoral programs and hospitals would rather hand out large sign up bonuses.

  • […] **The post was originally published at Kim McAllister’s blog: Emergiblog.com** […]

  • Mike Moore

    March 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

    What a great post…I’m a PA (don’t kill me!) but I think this really captures what is beautiful about nursing! Thanks!

  • […] The Nursing Profession: Absolutely Nuts or Totally Unique? (emergiblog.com) // […]

  • […] The Nursing Profession: Absolutely Nuts or Totally Unique? (emergiblog.com) […]

  • Helen (Barkie's niece)

    September 25, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I’ve never commented on a blog before but had to here. The nurse in this picture is my great aunt, Ceclia Williams. She was born in Canada but spent much of her adult life in Cottonwood, Arizona. The “Barkie” comes from her maiden name which was Barker. To those who knew and loved her she went by the name “Auntie Pop.” Life Magazine did a photo spread on her (hence this picture and many others) as the oldest practicing nurse in America at the time. The story was never published because she retired from nursing just before they got the story to print. She was truly an amazing woman – in addition to her LONG nursing career she was an avid fisherwoman who taught my brother, cousins and I to fish practically before we could walk. Fishing rule number 1: you catch em, you clean em.

  • nursing as a profession

    April 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
    are amongst the highly trained nurses you could ever find.
    It’s also possible to become a program director or even a clinical professor. So, consider this option too, it is quite worth its while.

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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