During some recent travel in a quaint harbor town, I came upon a 1945 hardback copy of Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse by Helen Wells in a used bookstore.1 I'm probably one of the few nurses my age who'd never read a story from the Cherry Ames mystery series published from 1943 to 1968.2 Thinking the book a great find, I purchased it for $15 and read it from cover to cover on the plane ride home.
Before actually delving into the book, I envisioned a story about an idealized image of a nurse from the 1940s. Accordingly, I anticipated the heroine to be more the handmaiden stereotype than the dynamic, independent nursing professional with the first-rate critical thinking abilities and clinical skills that we foster today. I also expected unrealistic working conditions and patient-care practices. I was wrong on all fronts. Though the author wasn't a nurse, she clearly researched her subject well as the book contained an admirable measure of accuracy, yet was still appropriate for the targeted young teen audience.
I've often heard it said that the Cherry Ames series inspired many teens to pursue nursing. I now understand why. One line in particular stood out for me: “Only a nurse could experience such broad human adventure, such profound inner reward.” Looking over the weathered inside cover with the original 95¢ price tag still affixed, I found a long list of Cherry Ames titles to choose from—readers can select stories about a wide range of nursing roles and work settings. I'd like to read them all!
The nursing profession had a powerful marketing and recruiting tool through these books. But where are the contemporary Cherry Ames-type stories featuring both men and women in nursing to inform and attract the youth of today? Most nursing images in popular media do little to portray the profession in a way that either makes us proud or entices young people. If we are to survive and thrive going forward, our youth still need inspiring stories of excellent nursing role models depicting the breadth of real work that defines our profession as well as the satisfaction it can bring. This is a true call to action! Until then, there's still Cherry Ames...
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NURSING2018 VICE PRESIDENT: EMERGENCY & TRAUMA SERVICES CHRISTIANA CARE HEALTH SYSTEM, WILMINGTON, DEL.
1. Wells Helen. Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse
. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap; 1945.
2. The Cherry Ames Unofficial Home page. http://cherryames.seriesbooks.info