Nursing is a Calling, Not a Job

Let me congratulate you on your accomplishments. As a nurse, I truly understand the sacrifices you and your families have made so that you can become a nurse. Nursing is a calling. You have been called upon to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of your patients and their families.

Soon, you will be attending your pinning ceremony. I have attended many pinning ceremonies and I am always overcome with emotion for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead for you to truly make a difference.

I still remember attending my own pinning ceremony 30 years ago. My first thought was “Finally, I am done with school! Turn me lose.” Of course, my first shifts as a nurse were terrifying. I double and triple-checked everything to make sure I was doing the right thing.throwing graduation cap in air

I will never forget one of my first shifts as a nurse. I thought I knew it all. I signed up to work a shift in the emergency department. In the first hour, a mother ran into the ED screaming for a nurse. I was the only one standing there-where had everyone gone? This mother had a 12 year-old daughter in the car and she wasn’t breathing.

I clearly remember telling the mother that I would find a nurse for her. In this hospital, 30 years ago, we still wore nursing caps as part of our uniform. This mother looked me up and down and quickly reminded me that I looked like a nurse and my badge indicated I was a nurse. I took a deep breath and followed her to the car to start caring for her daughter.

It can very difficult to go from student one day to nurse the next. The responsibility can become overwhelming at times. I have a few words of advice that have helped me through those times:

  • Patients always come first. If you always put patients first, you will never be wrong. When there is disagreement or confusion among different healthcare professionals, always put the patient first. Everything else will fall into place.
  • Remember the basics: airway, breathing, circulation-both yours and your patients. If those things are in place, you’re off to a good start.
  • Take a deep breath and jump in. Learn something new every day. Healthcare is constantly changing. We must change with it.
  • Keep calm. Make sure your body language says you know what you’re doing and everything is under control. People look to nurses in a time of crisis. They may not understand what is going on but if nurses are calm and confident, they feel the situation is under control. People trust nurses.

SEE ALSO: New to Nursing Blog

In December 2015 for the 14th straight year, the Gallop Poll on honesty and ethics once again, named nurses as the most trusted profession in America. We have worked very hard to earn this respect. Please strive every day to live up to this honor.

Nursing is a calling, not a job. Trust me when I say there are many easier ways to earn a living. In order to truly honor this calling, you must give of yourself to your patients and their families. Our patients and their families put their lives in our hands. They trust us to provide quality, safe care.

If you practice nursing with honor, you will never be forgotten because your patients will carry your spirit with them forever. Maya Angelou once said, “They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Your patients will always remember how you made them feel.

Have fun, be happy and enjoy your nursing career. You have been given the opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives and make a lasting impact on this world.

I would like to end by sharing one of my favorite passages that sums up our calling to the nursing profession:

“You’re going to be there when a lot of people are born, and when a lot of people die. In most cultures, such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. No one on earth would be welcomed, but you, as a nurse, are personally invited. What an honor that is. (Thomas Dick)”

Congratulations and welcome to nursing,


Kim Bassett is CEO of Steward Norwood Hospital.

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