Are Passion and a Calling Pre-requisites for Being a Good Nurse?
Posted Jul 24 2009 12:00am
Several years of news about the nursing shortage, and now the recession, has made nursing a popular career choice. And, it is a popular choice for those seeking a second career because, in part, it is viewed as offering job security. For decades it was assumed that those entering the profession had a calling and a passion for the work before they’d even set foot in a nursing school classroom—in fact, it seemed to be a requirement. Even nurses were of that mindset, and many still are.
Recently, there was a comment posted on a forum by a nurse who was miffed when she heard a second-career nurse say, “I wish I’d gone into nursing first because it’s a recession-proof job.” Nurse Miffed is of the opinion—and I’m paraphrasing here—that someone who chooses nursing for job and salary security can’t be dedicated to the work.
I disagree. I have first-hand experience as a nurse who felt neither a calling to, nor a passion for, the profession. I grew up in a middle class family, a child of parents who never attended college. They wanted us to have the opportunities that had been out of reach for them but they didn’t have the experience to advise us about career choices and colleges. We were pretty much left to our own devices.
In my senior year of high school I knew I should be making plans regarding my life’s work but I hadn’t a clue what that might be. As the sports editor of my school newspaper, I’d developed an interest in journalism, but such a career seemed so abstract I couldn’t grasp it. My hometown was a mostly agricultural community of 1,200 people that hadn’t produced a single journalist ever. It felt like a make-believe job and I am nothing if not pragmatic, so I thought I should seek something more practical.
It was an era of television medical dramas and I was an avid fan of those programs. Watching the medical shows planted the seed of thought that maybe I could do what the nurses on TV were doing (which wasn't much compared to reality) and that is how I decided upon a nursing career. No calling. No passion. Not much thought at all. I suddenly found myself in nursing school where our instructors wasted no time whipping us into shape. I followed the rules (mostly), did what I was told (mostly) and found that I not only had some talent for nursing, but also really loved most aspects of it. By graduation our class had shrunk by nearly a third. Some of those who didn’t make it to the end had a passion for the profession, had wanted to be nurses since childhood, but in the throes of school they discovered it wasn’t what they’d imagined and their bubbles burst.
I think salary and employability are factors we all think about when considering a career, so why should nursing be put on a pedestal as being something we would pursue, no matter the wage or job possibilities.
I have used this quote by Diana Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, former editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing, a couple times before but it is so wise and so true, it needs to be repeated: “It does take a special something to be a good nurse, but it can be learned—with proper desire, skills can be gained.”
I’m certain there are untold numbers of caring, highly skilled nurses who, like me, arrived at nursing school without a passion but, with guidance from superb instructors, learned to be good nurses.
Be honest. Was it passion and calling alone that led you to nursing? Did salary and job prospects affect your decision? Please weigh in here.