Last year, the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse. Amazing, right? I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would say that nurses haven’t been integral to the teams of superheroes caring for those who need it over the course of 2020.
While the intent was to advance nurses’ vital position in transforming healthcare around the world, we nurses became the front line in a fight that will shape us for years to come.
With so much importance placed on nurses’ shoulders, and the shoulders of the rest of the healthcare profession, I found myself asking: Why did we choose to be nurses? Why specifically are you a nurse? Some would probably say, “It’s a good job,” or, “I want to take care of people.” For those of us in the older generations, it was an accepted path in higher education.
Recently, I saw a post on social media that spoke directly to me: “I was born to be a nurse.”
When I was in sixth grade, in London, Ontario, we were asked to write what we wanted to be when we grew up. We were also asked to say why we picked what we picked. I instinctively wrote, “I want to be a nurse,” but I didn’t know why. I only knew that I did.
Heck, what does a 10-year-old girl know anyway? Was it because I was the younger child in a family with a child with major health issues? Was it because I sat in the lobby of the children’s hospital waiting for my parents and sister more times than I can count watching the nurses, in their white uniforms and caps, sometimes with their blue capes on, and wondered what it would be like to be them? Or was it just because … just because I always knew I would be a nurse? How many of you felt a similar calling — where you simply knew that you would be a nurse someday?
Now, as I look back over this near 42-year career, I am thankful that I have spent the majority of it in long-term care. I took the position of director of nursing at Methodist Retirement Communities in Durham, NC, without ever setting foot in a nursing home!
But that is what nurses do. We accept the path presented to us, and jump right in with both feet, and then sort it out after.
I have seen the best there is to offer in nursing in post-acute care over the years. When I come in contact with you, my fellow nurses, I see similar characteristics. I see men and women who are caring, communicative, empathetic, detail-oriented problem solvers. People who are committed to being patients’ advocates, are willing to learn (most of the time!), have great stamina and mostly have a good sense of humor. (God knows we needed a sense of humor to get through the last year!)
I encourage all my nursing friends out there in Mission Health Communities and beyond to reflect on why you became a nurse. If any of the characteristics I listed above speak to you, take some time to reflect on it and use it to guide you over the next year. Write it on an index card, put it in your MAR to refer to during med pass, put it on your desk, or inside your scrub pants pocket. Pull it out through the day and think, have I exhibited that today?
Uplifting and empowering nurses is of great and immediate importance. The need for nurses continues to rise, and while we are absolutely superheroes, we can’t do it all alone. Mission Health too, is about to embark on a year-long project to elevate our nurses. A career ladder program will be launched soon. Mentorship programs are rolling out. I am forever grateful to the senior team at Mission, led by our president and CEO, Stuart Lindeman, who have said this is not only important, but necessary for us to retain and recruit the best out there.
Every year, National Nurses Week bumps into National Skilled Nursing Care Week. It’s a great mix because as we celebrate the residents in our communities, we also step back to thank the nearly 800 Licensed Nurses who come to a Mission Health Community each day to carry out the work of nursing. I not only celebrate National Nurses Week with you all, I tip my white cap with a black stripe to you, and very much respectfully thank you for all you do.
What will be on your index card?
Happy Nurses Week!
Karen McDonald has been a registered nurse for 42 years and is chief clinical officer for Mission Health Communities.