The seeds of wisdom, peace, and wholeness are within each of our
—Jack Kornfield, 1993, p. 80
Although this book plumbed nurses’ collective difficulties and private suffering, I do believe that wisdom, peace, and wholeness are possible. Nurses will get through this chaotic period. The practice of nursing will always be needed by society and will always attract individuals who have a vocation to give loving care. In fact, a national survey of 2 million high school juniors showed that nursing ranked third out of 65 most preferred career choices (Occupational Outlook Quarterly, cited in Newsline, APA Monitor, 1997). Nursing yields great joys. That is why so many of us remain devoted to it, even though we’ve been “ordered to care in a society that [does] not value caring,” as historian Susan Reverby (1987) argues. I asked some nurses to share what keeps them enthused about this profession, and this is what they said:
I think of that woman who was so grateful that she could get a reliable method of birth
control or the scared pregnant adolescent who didn’t know what to do next. I remember
the teenage couple who was so afraid that their new baby’s cord had become infected.
And the 150 older members of the community who brought their smiles and stories of
earlier times with them to get their flu shots. And all those parents who brought their
children for gamma globulin after they had been exposed to hepatitis at their day care.
These are the things that make my anger fade. I forget about my feelings of powerlessness.
I know that I make a difference. (Belinda McCall)
I am a person who needs to know that what I do makes a difference. Nursing has met
this need for almost 40 years. I remember the wrenching pain of being with an elderly
man on discharge day and we both knew he was going home to die. I remember the
student who sat at my office door early one morning waiting to tell me she was pregnant.