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Nov
01

Social Worker with a Stethoscope

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to my identity as a registered nurse. I’m approaching two years since passing the NCLEX and in many ways, my career is nothing like I imagined. Instead of working in a hospital caring for kiddos with cancer, I’m doing home visits to extremely vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities. People who are abused or neglected or unable to care for themselves.

I am incredibly grateful that in this economy I have a steady job and a consistent paycheck. And I do enjoy many aspects of my work. But do I feel that strong sense of mission that accompanied me into nursing school? Not necessarily. And that makes me sad. And somewhat confused.

Part of it is the nagging question of what defines nursing? Maybe this is something I should have already figured out, but the extent of my clinical activity involves vital signs out in the field, calling 911 when the situation gets hairy and occasionally doing a quick assessment of a wound. One most days, I am part counselor, part case manager, part advocate, part mediator and often emotional punching bag. One of my team members described herself as a social worker with a stethoscope. How very true.

One of the aspects of nursing that really excited and intrigued me is how much you can do with it. There are so many specialties, so many settings. It’s a gift. But it can also lead to role confusion. And in this era of highly technological health care and increasing specialization, even in nursing, do we paint ourselves into clinical corners when we choose one path over the other? Is nursing truly as flexible as we make it out to be?

So I’m asking you, dear readers, how do we define our profession? How do we differentiate ourselves from the many other helping professions?

What is the essence of nursing?

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