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Nursing: A passion and a calling

Walsh, Mary BSN

doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000399800.18036.b2

Mary Walsh was a senior bachelor's of science in nursing student at the Frances M. McLaughlin Division of Nursing at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, N.J., when she wrote this.

ALTHOUGH NURSING wasn't my first calling, I was always a caregiver. Known as the neighborhood vet by the time I was 6, my saint of a mother let me create a care clinic for sick and injured animals in my bedroom. When I grew up, I cared for animals in all kinds of roles, from groomer to zookeeper to veterinary technician.

Many years later, my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In the last week of her life, I flew home to be by her bedside. This article tells how one of her nurses inspired me to choose this career path.

When I was a family member in crisis, I knew nothing of the medical jargon I was hearing. I watched nurses hurry in and out of her room, stopping to tell my family and me about oxygen saturations and potassium levels and things that meant not one thing to us. Yet in the midst of all this, one nurse was to change the course of my world.

My mother knew she was dying, but being a gregarious woman, she still wanted to get to know every medical person who crossed her threshold. Yet she took it with quiet grace when most were too busy to talk with her. This was not so with my first nurse "preceptor." Looking back now, I believe this petite woman's objective was to impart honor and value to my mother's life by giving of herself and of her time. I think she attained her objective.

They held hands, this African American nurse and my mother, a White southerner who'd grown up in the segregated south. As they exchanged stories of families, children, grandchildren, and the men in their lives, I saw a peace steal over my mother's face as 70 years of unconscious prejudice fell away.

Afterward, as my mother lay dozing, this nurse quietly left the room and approached my sister and me as we waited in the hall. Without a word, she held open her arms and enveloped us in her embrace. At no other time did I feel that my family and I were more cared for and taken care of than I did at that moment. This nurse is my inspiration to this day, and that's why I call her my first preceptor.

Years later, I found myself having to begin my life over again. I was 40 years old with a car, a kid, and 50 bucks, yet somehow I'd held onto the memory of that extraordinary nurse. I'd never even heard the term "nursing shortage" at the time I enrolled in nursing school. I knew only that I wanted to care for patients and families just like that nurse had done so long ago, with warmth and acceptance.

No, nursing wasn't my first calling, yet here I am in my final semester before graduation, working at a skilled nursing facility for my senior capstone project with two nursing preceptors whose passion for their jobs inspires me. These nurses consider their work to be a calling. I'd strongly encourage those entering the nursing profession to consider the growing field of geriatrics.

The kindness I was shown by my preceptors I hope to pay forward by helping other novice nurses with the passion and heart to care for these vulnerable patients.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.