Where did you find your inspiration for your nursing career?
What was the spark that lead you to dedicate your life (well at least 12 hours a day, three days a week, five days a week, nights, weekends and holidays, or so…) to helping people during their darkest hours, their most difficult challenges and their most extraordinary joys?
For me, it began when I was about eight years old.
I loved reading books. I loved reading books about Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton. Remember the Golden Books? I read these two books all the time! I would get perfectly immersed in their stories. I don’t think I ever considered the differences in boy and girl roles for heroes at that young age. I don’t remember feeling slighted, thinking the male heroes were running around saving the day with their strength, brawn, swords and charm… and with my skinny little legs, why couldn’t I do that? Who didn’t want to be the hero of the story?
Even today, I can recall the books that hypnotized me. Reading them, I could picture myself being the hero in the story. I could see myself wearing the white uniform with the blue cape and the white, starched, detailed cap that seemed to give my heroes their power. My heroes would voluntarily go, with purpose, where no one wanted to go. They would go into ravished war zones, poor hospitals, homes in the neighborhoods where they lived and neighborhoods where no one knew them and they were the obvious outsiders. Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton were my heroes!
It seemed, wherever they went, they made magic.
They saw problems and injustices and started solutions. They weren’t afraid of pain, suffering or sadness. In fact, it was as if their enchanted words or touch or act could shift the atmosphere and pull the curtain back where even a little light could be seen through the dust.
They worked extremely hard with long hours and difficult conditions. They were frequently without supplies, technology or today’s scientific prowess to change the course of illness. Yet, they were creative. They broke ceilings of rusted traditions, poor planning and indifference for others. They paved ways where there were only walls, changing health conditions for women, children, the poor and those that medicine is not wise enough yet to cure.
Nursing’s legacy came from a remarkable line in history where their story started with monks and nuns who, while dedicating their lives to religious service, provided health care to anyone who arrived in need. In the beginning, without technology, antibiotics, ventilators, surgical procedures and heart transplants, simple healing required extraordinary creativity, compassion, and dedication.
Through the years, this historically dedicated, driven, perceptive and gifted group of men and women from all levels of social hierarchy have been change-makers. They have uniquely offered to position themselves in our lives to assist, comfort, protect, guide and teach us about taking care of ourselves, our families and our communities.
And today, we are the gifts of their legacy. We are Nurses. We are the change-makers. We are the heroes.
It is now 34 years later in my own nursing career. I have worked in many different fields in nursing, from newborn intensive care to oncology and bone marrow transplant, critical care, cardiology. I have worked as a staff nurse, a case manager an educator, an orientation development coordinator, a breast health specialist and a legal nurse consultant. Each situation shared significant gifts, to my career and my spirit.
Each nursing opportunity provides you a unique position as a stranger, inside people’s lives, health, health problems, concerns, struggles and successes. An insider position, that given any other circumstance, you would most likely never come together.
Nursing is full of exciting possibilities. In today’s world, nurses are the beneficiaries of social, cultural, medical and technological advances that our ancestry may have wished for, but could have only dreamed of with the most enthusiastic imaginations.
You name it; you can do it in nursing.
Want to travel the world and work at the same time? Welcome travel nursing, cruise ship nursing, and medical missions. Done! Want to affect healthcare change in political policy? Welcome political advocates and nursing associations. Done!
Want to teach bedside care? Welcome Clinical Scholars, Doctorates in Nursing Practice. Done! Want to take your nursing practice to a higher clinical level? Welcome nurse practitioners. Done! Want to assist in medical legal cases? Welcome legal nurse consultants. Done!
Interested in natural health and integrated medicine? Welcome nurse naturopaths, herbalists, massage therapists and holistic healers. Done!
Want to serve the military in the highest fashion? Meet Patricia Horoho, a United States Army lieutenant general and the 43rd U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, the first woman and nurse in the position in over 200 years. Done!
Nurses are breaking social, cultural and occupational ceilings like never before.
The true power of nursing lies in the interaction of the personal relationship. Nurses have the power to influence and provide learning, change, compassion, encouragement and advocacy.
I am in awe of the heroic evolution and transformation of nursing from its humble origins to what we experience in nursing today. And I am honored to be a part of a profession that strives so hard to provide the highest level of healthcare possible to our community.
I wonder, how are we using our influence, education and the power of heroes… for each other? We have many opportunities to affect our ability to stay excited, inspired and be connected and dedicated to supporting each other.
Think about the many ways you can affect the relationship with another nurse. There is precepting, teaching and being a colleague working together that shift on that unit in that hospital or clinic. There are leadership roles in administration, education and middle management that can affect the social culture of your work group.
We work so hard to be the heroes for everybody else. We need to work as hard to be the heroes for each other.
Each of you has wisdom about nursing that has come from learning from nursing’s legacy builders, nurses who educated you, mentored you and worked with you. You have wisdom about what comforts patients, how to educate them, how to help them become self-determinate in their own lives and health recovery. You have wisdom about how to work with physicians and how to make them think that when they clean up after themselves, it is their idea. You have wisdom about what works and ideas for what can make things better.
Our nursing wisdom is not confined to those we interact with at work. Our nursing wisdom affects our lives at home, how we manage our relationships, our families, our businesses and our life goals and dreams.
With the difficulties our busy lives and challenging work environments eagerly provide us, it is easy to lose the light.
And I want you to stay excited and inspired… not only for your patients… but for each other.
“The Nursing Wit And Wisdom project seeks to help nurses and nursing students find ways to stay excited about nursing and understand their unique position to influence others so that they can be inspired about the impact they can make on their patients, families, community and each other.”
The Nursing Wit and Wisdom project is a project I developed when I realized I was collecting my favorite sayings and wisdoms I was saying to patients, new nurses and students and using them in conversations and education. It started with the original book, ‘Nursing Wit and Wisdom: Truths, Humor and Wisdom from the Stethoscope to the Bedside’ in 2009, which was a compilation of wisdom collected from nurse colleagues and myself. The 2nd edition of the book, ‘Nursing Wit and Wisdom: From The Stethoscope to the Bedside’ with added wisdoms, inspirations and career facilitating questions. The book has been a great success among new nurses and an enjoyable tribute to senior nurses who know all too well, the truths, wisdom and humor we hold!
I wanted to continue the conversation among nurses and in 2012, I started the Facebook page, ‘Nursing Wit and Wisdom’. I post daily questions, wisdoms, humor, resources and especially appreciations for your work and your day. To date, we have over 9000 ‘Liked’ followers from all over the world. I truly enjoy when I get involved in a comment or message conversation with a nurse who is on the other side of the nation or the world.
The website here, ‘Nursing Wit And Wisdom’ continues the conversation even further, in blog format with a variety of subjects including nursing news, inspirations, education and resources and clinical challenges in which readers can download a free handout for an education game or tool to try at their work.
Check out the FREE eBOOK: “Be A Prepared Patient: Three Quick Steps” with signing up for email updates for this site.
One of the things I LOVE TO SHARE are patient tools I designed that help patients and families and caregivers and nurses, provide ways to share their health story, when they are sick, unable, to don’t remember their story. The eBook contains THREE easy to print and share over and over and over and over again cards, including a WALLET CARD, a REFRIGERATOR CARD, and a BOOKMARK: 6 TIPS TO TELL 911 EMS with a list of the most important things you can start to tell EMS and then they can take it from there!
I am currently working on education projects for preceptors, called, ‘The Preceptor Project’ is in the works for releases of multiple online courses and activities in Spring 2022. So make sure you sign up for email updates and be the first to know when they will get released for you!
I hope you will join me and your nursing friends all over the world, in conversation and inspiration.
Inspire and Be Inspired, Nightingales!
Audrey Friedman, RN
(Core article originally published 12/6/2014 for NursesFYI International Digital Nurses Magazine. Editor: Rich Williams, RN.)