When I was applying to colleges as a senior in high school, in-person interviews were encouraged, if not required, as part of the process. A typical question was, “Why do you want to become a nurse?” Like all nurses who were ever asked that question, my initial response was, “I want to help people”. Of course there are innumerable ways to help others, so there had to be more in making the choice to become a nurse. Although I obviously had no professional experience as a nurse at that time, I knew there was a depth to nursing that started with the desire to help and went beyond the technical skills that most people see. I anticipated the physical care, the critical thinking, the application of science to be positively challenging and stimulating. But still I knew there was more.
When I was a freshman in high school my mother was diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalized several times for treatments or for subsequent complications. During one of her inpatient stays, her nurse asked me if I wanted to stay overnight to be with my mom. In those days, no one was allowed to stay past visiting hours! I knew she had taken a chance in bending the rules. She showed me how to empty the catheter, measure and record the I & O. She knew that “having a job” would make me feel that I was helping my mom—that I could “do” something–that I was helping. Such a seemingly simple intervention by the nurse made such a deep impact on me as a young girl. I felt it, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until later—when my mom died and I had to rely heavily on my memories to sustain me. Knowing I had been able to help was so impactful for my grieving. The nurse knew it would be.
Nurses are special people because they are special to people. Every interaction is a multitasking feat. Thinking, feeling, doing—all interventions individualized, including those for family members. As a nurse there are days that are exhausting emotionally, spiritually and physically. So why do nurses want to be nurses? Because it is who they are—to truly care, not just when it is convenient. Like my mom’s nurse who probably spent more time teaching me what to do than it would have taken her to do it herself—but she cared more about my mom and me than she did about her convenience. Nurses know that the gift is in the giving. This is what is physically and emotionally energizing and it is what enriches the soul. It’s about putting love into the world.
To all nurses, I extend my utmost respect and gratitude for all you do to honor that voice you heard some years ago saying, “I want to help people”. You are living your purpose and I am so grateful you choose to share your gifts with our community.
Please join me during Nurses’ Week in thanking nurses everywhere for all the care and compassion they bring to patients, families, our community and our world!
BTW—the name of my mom’s nurse was Kathy Fox. I will never forget her. I’m sure there are countless people who will never forget you, but rather will hold you in their hearts forever.
Mary Ann Boccolini