Our occupation is, and I’m sure most agree, rewarding.
When it’s at its best, nursing provides a sense of accomplishment, especially when saving life or preventing crises.
And, when it’s at its worst, nursing provides a sense of failure, especially when losing life or failing to prevent harm.
Our profession, occupation, vocation is, whatever you’d like to call it, noble.
Nursing identity crisis
Recently, as an occupation, I’ve noticed we’re suffering from an identity crisis.
Some of us believe we’re professionals whilst others believe we’re artisans.
Essentially, we don’t know if we’re blue-collar or white-collar, if we’re professional or skilled-laborer.
Due to the nature of the economy and our healthcare system, we’re transitioning, continually moving left and right along the horizontal axis of public opinion and the laborer-professional continuum.
Whether we’ve thought about it or not, we must, as a whole, affirm or reject the way we perceive ourselves and our profession; otherwise, other members of the healthcare team will, as many of them already have, define and determine our function for us.
Yes, it’s true that we follow physician’s orders, carry out procedures, and assess—a skill-set which some might consider more laborer than professional, as we’re following orders rather than giving them.
Yet, as a whole, we’re more educated and have more autonomy than generations past.
And, unlike 25 years ago, a large number of us are becoming nurse practitioners, a specialty which grants us the ability to diagnose and write scripts.
I, personally, identify as a professional, rather than laborer.
In previous generations, nurses were subservient assistants, with limited training in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and ethics.
Conversely, most of us must now take chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, ethics, psyche, nutrition, etc., providing us with a well-rounded education and preparing us to take a holistic approach to patient care.
Nonetheless, some of us, as well as other members of the healthcare team, view nursing as a vocation rather than profession.
In a sense, some of us identify as more skilled-laborer than professional, as we start IVs, clean wounds, change dressings, dispense medications, etc. Albeit, I understand and empathize with this point of view, we’ve advanced and surpassed just performing skills.
Not your typical nurse
We, most of us anyway, play a hodgepodge of roles, such as bioethicist, social worker, counselor, psychologist, and mediator.
We don’t just simply hang fluids anymore; we advocate, manage, lead, provide expertise and give advice to different members of the healthcare team.
Obviously, once we break it down, we’re arguing simple semantics, projecting meaning and judgment on how we view ourselves and our colleagues.
Currently, our healthcare system is in a constant state of flux, causing us to constantly reevaluate ourselves and the nature of our profession; as we move forward as a profession or vocation, we will continue questioning our role and relevance, as will other members of the healthcare team.
And as time progresses, we will, for better or worse, require more and more education, as the democratization of power and prestige in healthcare is afoot.
If we’re not professionals now, we will be.
If we juxtapose modern nursing with Nightingale era nursing, we’re comparing apples to oranges.