God spoke to me and called me to His Service. What form this service was to take the voice did not say. ― Florence Nightingale
Some say nursing is a calling. It can be a demanding, thankless job in some ways and the feeling of being “called” to serve as a caregiver keeps many nurses going after a particularly hard day. For me, I do believe it’s a calling. It must be! As a nurse myself, I have seen how many moments we spend in a day on back-breaking, dreadful tasks that would make anyone else throw up their hands in defeat. But not a nurse. The nurse will return the next day and the next day…for three or four – 12 hour shifts in a week….to do it all again. Because this is just what nurses do….AND because there are other moments in between that make the most difficult ones worthwhile. The quiet moments. The moments where we know we are making a difference in a life, in a family. Sometimes those are harder to find than they should be.
You may have your own image of a nurse…dressed all in white with a tidy white cap on her head. But nursing is much more than that. There are many more possibilities for a nurse nowadays. With the field constantly evolving, there are many different opportunities for a skilled nurse with a degree. The demand for nurses is continually growing, and the nursing career path offers valuable benefits such as a competitive salary, varied opportunities, the ability to travel, education reimbursement…among many others.
There are currently more than 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 84.5% are employed in nursing. The federal government projected that more than 200,000 new registered nurse positions will be created each year from 2016-2026. So despite the large numbers of RNs currently working, a nursing shortage still exists, and experts expect it to worsen as millions of baby boomers age.
Nurses are not just working in the hospital! They can be found in your doctor’s office, your children’s schools, your local drug store clinic, and at the local college, teaching a new class of aspiring nurses.
Even in the hospitals, nurses have various roles from Bedside Nurses to Case Managers, Infection Control Nurses, Diabetes Experts, Cardiac Nurse, Nurse Midwives, Oncology Nurses, Clinical Nurse Managers, CRNAs, Nurse Practitioners, Travel Nurses. Psychiatric Nurses, Nursing Directors, and many more! The faces of nurses are everywhere, and the opportunities for nurses are vast!
What’s changed for nurses?
On the plus side, the opportunities are more plentiful and varied and the pay has definitely improved! In the early days of “trained” nursing, around the mid-1880s, 22 nurse-training schools had been established in the United States, which followed Florence Nightingale’s principles. Graduates could expect to earn about $4 a week, plus room, board, and tips. However, the profession still lacked prestige because, like domestic servants, nurses had to be on call 24 hours a day.
Some of the not-so-great changes to the nursing profession include sicker patients who need a higher level of care, shorter hospitalizations, and shorter training periods for new nurses. Add to this the nursing shortage and the recent pandemic, and you have a lot of overworked, exhausted nurses who are questioning their career choice. We can only hope the good ones hang in there! The best-case scenario would see them being rewarded for their efforts and changes being made to help make their workload more manageable. I’m not sure if or when we will get there, but it’s a dream all nurses have.
In the meantime, if you happen to know or care about a nurse, make it a point to let them know you see what they’re doing and you appreciate it, that you admire them, that you love them….whatever the case may be. You can’t imagine how much of a difference this can make in the life of a burnt-out, exhausted nurse. To the person who will drop everything to care for you and your loved ones…let them know you care about them, too. And if you are a nurse, always remember this….
As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul, and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel – Maya Angelou