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The top 25 inspirational things about nursing

Sean Locke | Stocksy
Sean Locke | Stocksy

For a nurse, inspiration is as important as breathing—we need oxygen for our souls. Just as we check to see if our patients are breathing, checking our own emotional pulse is essential. We need to feel inspired; it’s a critical component to a nursing career.

For us to keep going shift after shift, we must be reminded from time to time of those special moments—we all have them in our careers—when we’ve stopped and thought: This is why I do it.

So just what are some things that keep a nurse breathing? The following are presented randomly, not in any particular order of importance. All of them, however, provide oxygen for our souls!

  • Passion: Recollection of what called us to nursing in the first place. Our initiative to continue education, join a committee at our workplace, volunteer in our community at a health event and stay fervently committed to quality patient care. It’s contagious!
  • Respect: For our profession. For human life. For dignity’s sake we undertake enormous responsibility.
  • Humor: It’s a well-known fact that laughter is great medicine for our patients and for us! A colleague once boasted of eating an entire Thanksgiving dinner in six minutes while standing up during a busy ER shift! Then there are certain things that we find comical (perhaps even hysterical) that only another nurse would understand!
  • Gratitude: This attitude on our part recognizes that if it were not for our own good health and intelligence, we would be unable to serve those in our care. We’re also grateful for our patients who appreciate our time and patience…for our families who often miss us at the dinner table—especially on holidays (oof!).
  • Teamwork: As nurses we need each other, depend on one another and have each other’s backs. I know, I know…nurses historically eat their young…but it is and always will be the teamwork that energizes and fuels us. Not to mention the snacks and dishes we bring in to share!
  • Doctors: As much as we often complain about them or are intimidated by them, we thrive on their trust in us. It helps when they’re charismatic and good-looking, too! Doesn’t it? Be honest.
  • Teaching: The old adage “See one, do one, teach one” is completely valid. Mentoring a new nurse, student or employee is a win-win opportunity to keep your edge sharp and get back to basics. It’s the foundation of great nursing care. Recognizing that you’re a source of encouragement for another nurse is a true gift.
  • New scrubs: Is there anything more great to wear to work?
  • Confidence: Competency in both knowledge and skills, partnered with enthusiasm, is why our patients trust us so!
  • Insight: A nurse is often “in the know” regarding her patient’s life situation and lifestyle choices she may have made. This privilege of knowing instills compassion in us, replacing judgment.
  • Courage: We’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. A seasoned nurse will ask for help and risk a raised eyebrow. A new nurse will call a doctor who has a reputation for being abrupt because it’s in the patient’s best interest. It’s putting on those “big girl” or “big boy” pants when necessary. Because if you don’t, who will?
  • Joy: Acceptance into nursing school! What nurse can forget passing the NCLEX! How about landing that first job or making it through your first ACLS class! It’s joy…pure and simple.
  • New shoes: Every nurse understands the importance of good shoes. There are shoes in every color and style to keep us running all day (or night)! Of course, pedicures and foot massages are invaluable, too!
  • Intuition: Developed over time with our observation and assessment skills, this can truly save a patient’s life! When something isn’t right, you can’t always put your finger on it or measure it with technology…you just know. And often, you’re right on! It’s not a surprise because, after all, you’re a nurse!
  • Advocacy: When the patient can’t find his voice, or he just doesn’t understand, it’s the nurse who speaks up on his behalf. It’s also the times we put ourselves on the line to ensure patient safety and rights.
  • Complexity: Consider the “I’ve got it!” feeling after you learned to read an EKG or X-ray, or understood the meaning of ABG values. Not to mention the EMR and the newest IV pumps.
  • Positive outcomes: Being partly responsible for a patient outcome is more than simply giving the right medicine at the right time. It’s providing ongoing education, and recognizing any knowledge deficits in order to involve another specialty in the transition of care.
  • Learning a new skill: Taking a workshop often reignites confidence. So does getting certified in your specialty or perhaps landing a new job!
  • Creativity: Nurses are innovative! We are curious. We ask questions and seek answers.
  • Grace: The errors, the near misses, the rushing to complete tasks when the census and acuity are high. You’re understaffed and overwhelmed. You’re working overtime. Okay, you get the visual here. When there are no adverse occurrences in spite of it all, that’s grace.
  • Care and comfort: They drive your vehicle to work each day. Using your expertise in nursing skills and communication—whether to alleviate pain, give quality nursing care or provide patient education—you know that at the end of the day, you did what you could. Sometimes you just listened, but you always did your best.
  • Absurdity: Yes, absurdity! You know, those moments when you shake your head in utter disbelief of what you just heard or saw! Only a nurse can say, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”
  • Necessity: Our patients need us. Our colleagues need us. We show up. Enough said.
  • Patients: The intimate relationships that we develop with the people who start out as strangers are profound. What other profession is so personal? We know their stories, their fears and their medical histories. We’re bound by HIPAA for confidentiality. We see them exposed, both physically and emotionally. We learn empathy. It’s a privilege not to be taken lightly. It’s humbling to witness their courage and strength in the face of illness and loss.
  • Love: The heart of a nurse is unique. Its cell memory stores countless moments of tenderness and heartache, triumph and recovery, tragedy and tears. It’s why you are reading this now. Because you know that nursing is more than a job—it’s an act of love.

Teri Blackadar has been practicing nursing, primarily in emergency rooms, for more than 20 years. Currently she is the Swing Bed Coordinator at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, Maine, as well as the Adult CNA Instructor for the Waldo County Technical Center. Her nursing background also includes training in sexual assault, forensic exams, cardiac rehab and a bit of home health and hospice. She believes wellness and nutrition education are critically important for healing.

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