In honor of National Nurses Week, what better way to celebrate than to honor what defines a nurse? Florence Nightingale described nursing as “no man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this – ‘devoted and obedient.’ This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It would not do for a policeman.”
While the struggle is still real, nurses have since earned their rightful place among medical professionals. Fast forward to modern nursing where the American Nursing Association defines nursing as “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.
Through the years, the definition of a nurse has evolved, but there are a few key characteristics that remain constant.
Every nurse is a student. Our knowledge begins as we turn the first pages of our texts and continues throughout our careers. It begins as we take our first steps in uniform. Always a nurse, always a student. We can and should never stop learning.
Nurses look to one another for advice. The weight of critical thinking and care is often shared through second opinions and an exchange of ideas. One generation of nurse passes the tricks of the trade on to the next.
As our experience and confidence grows through the years, we hopefully take the roll of mentor as new nurses begin their journey. It is the experienced nurse’s job to embrace those new to the profession. With a welcoming hand and heart, we lift the profession up to the most honorable standard.
We act as guide to our patients and family members as they enter an often unfamiliar and frightening environment. We walk with them as they face some of the most joyful or devastating moments in their lives. Sometimes we carry them.
As we guide our patients and their families with compassion and respect, we are given something in return. We are given their trust. We become a friendly face in the face of denial, fear, or loss. While the faces through the years may become a blur for us, our patients will never forget the face of the nurse that showed compassion.
Nursing reaches far beyond the bedside with the patient. It reaches far beyond the title, the skill, or the thick skin one develops through the years. It is in the care of a sick loved one or friend. It is in a random act of kindness. It is in taking time to help those less fortunate, those in need. It is this and so much more. Here’s to nurses today and every day.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.