“So, what made you decide to get into nursing?” This question comes up often, from family dinners to holidays to hanging out with friends you haven’t seen since high school. And often, the answers are as numerous and varied as the students being asked. I’ve heard everything from stories of loved ones who were ill and had phenomenal nursing care to a desire to change the world to the very simple “it pays well.” But what I think really sets nursing students apart is the fact that very few people are here JUST for the paycheck (although I won’t pretend that it isn’t a nice added bonus).

If you look on any website that sells mugs/sweatshirts/blankets/ other knickknacks that are nursing-related, you’re bound to see this phrase : “caring is a work of heart.” And in any introductory nursing class, you’ll hear that nursing is both a science and an art. Anybody can sit in a classroom and learn about the parts of an IV setup. Anybody can memorize a list of anti-hypertensive drugs and their side effects and dosages. Anybody can walk into a lab and learn how to administer a TB test by injecting sterile water into a hotdog. But nursing is more than just a list of facts and diagnoses. Nursing is about seeing the person as a whole: it is about finding a way to treat not only the physical manifestations of illness, but about finding a way to treat the emotional, spiritual, and social effects of that illness. It is about helping a patient undergoing chemotherapy find a way to cope with losing her hair. It is about helping a child figure out how they can explain to their friends what it means when they say they have Type I Diabetes. It is about teaching a group of children at a school how to treat others who are ill or who look different from them. It is about helping the great-grandmother cope with the fact that she is in hospice and about helping her find peace as she goes through the process of dying. It is about comforting a woman and her husband who just suffered a miscarriage. It is about celebrating with your patient who is finally in remission from leukemia. It is about rejoicing with the family when a coma patient wakes up.

Nursing takes a special calling. It takes someone who understands that this whole profession is about more than just you. At least in my case, I’m not pursuing nursing because I have some sort of hero complex that requires me to swoop in and save the day. I’m not doing it because I want recognition or awe-struck looks when people hear what I do for a living. I’m not doing it because it pays well. I got into nursing because I have a deep, honest love of people. Because I can accept people as they are. Because I have a knack for meeting people where they are and helping them get to where they need to be. Nursing is not treating an illness. Nursing is treating people…as people. It is about love, kindness, altruism, sacrifice, joy, sorrow, difficulty, success, and above all, it is about the patients and their families.

So, why nursing? Well, why not?

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