That’s the question I recently had the opportunity to explore at the commencement ceremonies for our own graduates of the School of Nursing and those at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey School of Nursing.
It was a wonderful experience to stand before so many graduates—baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral—who are about to embark on a voyage of discovery in an evolving profession, a turbulent health care environment, and a rapidly changing world.
Along their career paths, they will navigate the complexities of new diseases and the challenges of resistant old diseases; use new and increasingly complex technologies; encounter rising costs; meet a greater demand for safety and improved quality of care and outcomes; and care for older, sicker, and more diverse populations. Throughout it all, they will face a world of increasing global tensions and struggle with the growing shortages of nurses and nursing faculty. Combined, these factors will create a stormy environment—perhaps the perfect storm for our so-called health care system—but more importantly, perfect opportunities for today’s new graduates.
Each new graduate has made the choice to embark on this journey of a professional nursing career. I commend them for their thoughtfulness, desire to make a difference, willingness to take risks, concern for others, and for placing themselves in an informed position to help people stay well, get well, and die with dignity. Most of all, I commend them for facing the critics who question their choice. They will hear again and again, “Why did you pick nursing?”
To provide them the resolve to stay their chosen course, enjoy the journey, and thrive as a nurse, I urged them to ask their critics, “Have you looked at nursing lately?” Nursing is the most exciting and flexible career in health care today. Historically, nursing has been a call to service. Military nurses and religious orders led the way. Today, nursing is a call to opportunity that requires not only a commitment to service, but also critical thinking, clinical judgment, and emotional and physical stamina.
It is a career that can mix practice and teaching; discovery, scholarship, and writing; service and advocacy. It is a profession that offers challenging positions that can lead anywhere—from local to global—in any geographic region, nationally or internationally, and in various settings—home, community, clinic, hospital, academia, research, military, corporate America, government…and the list goes on. It offers so many fields and specialties, they are too numerous to mention. Every day we hear of a new area of professional opportunity for nurses, and everywhere in health care nurses are essential members of the integrated health care delivery team.
Throughout their careers, our new graduates will experience stunning opportunities for professional and personal growth. They will encounter detours along the way, but—as Yogi Berra once advised—I encouraged them that, “When you come to a fork in the road—take it!” I hope they will take risks: Look into that new role or position, go back to school, commit to lifelong learning, and continuously ask why and learn why.
They will have a career—not just a job. They will join those who tell stories of their amazing experiences: the volunteers who went to New York following 9/11 and worked at Ground Zero providing care to the workers, those who traveled to Indonesia to help with tsunami-relief efforts, those who founded non-profit organizations, those who serve on the boards of major charitable organizations, and those who are leaders in research and in determining evidence-based nursing.
They will realize their dreams and ambitions. They will make a difference. They chose nursing and now they join you—the nurses among our readers—who continue to choose nursing as not just a platform career but ultimately a destination career.
The next time someone asks you, “Why nursing?” I urge that you, too, respond, “Have you looked at nursing lately?”
Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN ’64
Dean and Professor