A Little Hx In What Keeps Us In The Game, Why It Hurts Us, & How It Can Speak

Making sense of nursing in the healthcare system is a preoccupation for me.  I find the nursing trends that I observe and experience fascinating.

What a complex profession we are caught in, even Google ‘thinks’ so. 

I did a  Google search for Nurse Fulfillment.  And it produced 10 million results. Whoa !

There is a lot of information and talk out there about nursing fulfillment:

  • What motivates us
  • What defines us
  • What holds us back as a profession
  • What propels us forward as a profession

The distinction between what drives us away and what keeps us in nursing

Job satisfaction or not –   Job satisfaction has to do with job safety, security, relationships, recognition, the availability of resources and support, and opportunities for learning and growth.

These are what drive us out of nursing. 

Nurse fulfillment or not –   Nurse fulfillment is our sense of meaning and purpose we experience while we do nursing work.  

This is what keeps us in nursing.

Here’s a little history about nursing that I find fascinating, courtesy of Google –

Dependency needs.  In AJN 1965 –  One citation referred to studies of nurses that identified “one strong motivating force to be a nurse is a high dependency need to satisfy the dependency needs of others.”  Meaning: nurses have a need to keep people dependent.  Wow, I was surprised to see such a statement in writing.  We’ve escaped that belief.

Noble profession.  Another article – more recent and equally troubling- from NurseCareerTip.com in July 2015 described nursing as a noble profession, “giving selflessly in their care of others”.  I don’t see nursing as selfless. Being selfless is not healthy.

A Calling?  And then I saw this in an article yesterday based on a new study in Ideas.TED.com

“People who consider their work to be a calling tend to be more satisfied than those who think of their work as ‘just’ a job.”  Here a calling is associated with a sense of purpose.  OK, putting it this way, “a calling” certainly applies to nursing.  But …

The “virtue script” vs what we know and do 

I resist the “calling” and the “noble” references because they tie into the “virtue script” that Suzanne Gordon has written about for decades.  Suzanne Gordon is a leading authority on nursing’s professional image and political and public relations quagmire.  She has written at least seven books on nursing’s role and status within the healthcare culture and industry.

Her message is that as long as we allow the public and institutions to focus on who we are, rather than what we know and do, we will continue to be caught in this never ending political and public relations struggle.   I feel certain that her passion about nursing’s sub-valued status in healthcare and society is generated by a belief that nursing is the backbone of healthcare.

She warns again and again that nursing suffers from the virtue script; it trivializes our clinical knowledge and skills.  Her point is that nurses save people, protect people and  save money, period.

So, now what? I ask myself.

Is Caring Science about virtue or science?   It is science.  It’s a science that connects all that we do, what we know and what we are to patients.

The problem to date is this science has not had a strong voice.  Caring Science can have a voice through caring language.  A language that threads what we know with what we do and with the meaning it has for patients and others.

Suzanne Gordon suggests the following voice for nurses.  Words that explain what we do and what we know and who we are.

“Being a nurse is about saving patients’ lives. Being a nurse is about making sure a patient doesn’t develop a fatal complication after surgery. It’s about paying attention to the smallest but most significant details.  Like smoothing out the wrinkles on a sheet so a patient doesn’t develop an excruciating and costly bedsore. Sometimes by sitting and talking to someone, I find out the most important things, like whether patients understand how to take their medications, whether they have support at home, and whether they are frightened and anxious” ( 2005, 445).

This is Caring Science literacy.  This is making more sense to me.

images courtesy of istock.com

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