Nursing shortages. Burnout. Technology overload. Oh my!

It can seem like so much of what we read and hear about a career in nursing dwells on the challenges that nurses and the health care industry face. But lost in all that doom and gloom is what is at the heart of why people choose a career in nursing. That is the immeasurable reward that comes with caring for others when they need it most. The deeply meaningful impact in helping patients lead healthy, happy lives.

At Capella University, the nursing faculty have experienced firsthand the impact nurses can make. Below, they share what they love most about being a nurse. 

Constance Hall, EdD, MSN, RN, faculty chair in the graduate nursing program

All my life I wanted to be a nurse. The inspiration came from my family, as my aunt Mary Lois was a nurse coordinator for a burn hospital in my town. As a little girl, on Sundays when we would gather at my grandma’s house, I remember hearing the many stories my aunt would tell about her being a nurse in a pediatric burn unit. I was mesmerized by her stories, her intelligence, and most of all her love and dedication to the profession. It took me two other careers, being a mother, and a wife, to realize that a dream of being a registered nurse was possible. So, after working for a couple of years in different hospitals as a unit secretary, ED tech, phlebotomist, and registrar for an emergency department, I enrolled in a nursing program.

After many struggles, including discrimination for being an African American, I persevered with a positive attitude and graduated with honors. It wasn’t always easy, but I would do it all over again if given the chance – even 25 plus years later.

Today, although I work in nursing education, I will never forget and will always cherish the smiles on my patients’ faces when they would see me coming on my second day of shifts. Their smiles and their trust in my care was the greatest support I could have gotten. Nursing is in my heart. I was truly meant to be a nurse and nursing educator.

Lisa Kreeger, PhD, RN, chair of undergraduate nursing

When I was 17 years old, I left my beach life in California and moved to Chicago to start a career in theatre and music. My only steady income was playing the piano for opera students and the odd gig on the side. If that sounds painful, it was! 

One day I was walking along Fullerton Avenue having the kind of soul-searching crisis that one can only have at the age of 19. I stopped in my tracks in front of a big sign that read “Children’s Memorial Hospital” and thought, “I’m going in there right now, and I’m going to get a job.” And I did – as a typist in the radiology department. It only took a few weeks for me to realize that I wanted to become a part of the world of health care as a nurse. In many ways it was familiar to me because it operated like an orchestra. Within a few months, I was pursuing my BSN and I’ve never looked back.

What I’ve learned since then is that nursing is not a job. It’s a career. Even more than that – nursing credentials open the door to multiple careers. I’ve worked as a clinical nurse, as a quality leader in hospitals, in insurance plans, as a management consultant both in the United States and internationally, and now as an academic leader at Capella.

Occasionally a person will ask me, “Why aren’t you a nurse anymore?” My response is always, “But I am a nurse now.” I will always be a nurse, even if I’m not caring for a patient at the bedside. Nursing is in my DNA.

Susan R. Nohelty, PhD, MSN, RN, associate academic director of Faculty Initiatives/Learner Success

Ever since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. Of course, being so young, you don’t know exactly why you want it. Then life happens. You go through the loss of family members, you endure an illness yourself, and you watch loved ones die from cancer or heart disease. All of a sudden, your desire for being a nurse comes into perspective and you experience the epiphany: you want to help people in their time of extreme need. 

Nursing means taking care of not only those who are ill, but also their loved ones. You want to encourage them that their cherished ones will heal. You want to help them get through the death of a family member. It’s not easy work. It can be emotional and immensely heartbreaking at times. The enormous reward, however, is knowing that there is nothing else in this world that comes close to the joy of helping people heal, or helping them pass as peacefully and comfortably as possible. Those are the reasons why I am passionate about being a nurse.

Christy Davidson, DNP, interim dean for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences

Many are called to become a nurse as they are innately compassionate or have a nurturing spirit. For me, I became a nurse due to my love of life and the joy surrounding a new birth. All I ever wanted was to be a labor and delivery nurse, and I would settle for nothing less! I felt most alive when I was caring for new mothers and their babies, helping them enter into this new life with confidence and courage. Pregnancy and birth is such a miracle, and to be a part of that each day was such a privilege for me. 

As for the profession of nursing, I love that there are so many specializations and career paths available to nurses. We can work in an acute care setting, home health, a corporation, or a college or university. We can be frontline practitioners, work in leadership, or become independent entrepreneurs. We can work from home or at a physical location. We can work in our hometown or in any state in the country, or even abroad. The options are almost limitless, which gives us both job security and variety if we need it, as well as the unique opportunity to find our true niche.

Kristie Lowry, DNP, MSN, RN, associate chair of graduate nursing

What I enjoy most about nursing is the interaction with the patient and the family. They can be experiencing their worst while in the hospital, and being able to provide comfort and care to the entire family is an amazing privilege. Connecting with the patient and family, understanding their worries, background, and lifestyle helps build trust. I have received many hugs and thank you’s for taking time with families and calming nerves, answering questions, and just being a constant, compassionate person in their worst moments.

Bridget Roberts, DNP, RN, CNE, chair of doctoral nursing and interim associate dean for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences

Nursing is everything to me. The funny thing is … nursing was actually my third choice when it came to choosing a profession. I am so glad that architect and physical therapist didn’t work out for me.

When I proclaimed, “I think I’ll just be a nurse,” I didn’t really know what nursing was, nor did I know what an amazing career nursing would turn out to be. I also didn’t know that one does not simply become a nurse; it takes so much hard work and sacrifice. That said, I truly love being a nurse and am proud to serve in one of the most trusted professions.

I have always loved taking care of patients. Those relationships drive you as a nurse. There is nothing more rewarding than helping patients and families during their most vulnerable times – it is such an awesome honor. In fact, I feel like my work with patients has had much more of an impact on me as a human being than I ever had on them.

Now, as a nurse educator, I get to influence other nurses in their career journeys. That is as important to me as my previous work with patients because the impact has a cascading effect, allowing me to keep paying it forward. That’s what nurses do.

Discover your love for nursing with an online degree in nursing from Capella University.

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