August 3, 2011
Response by Oscar Avila to the article Nursing at its Best: Competent and Caring by Marilyn Rhodes, Arlene Morris, and Ramona Lazenby (February 25, 2011).
I agree it is a challenge to change the image of nurses from that of ‘angels’ or ‘physicians’ handmaidens’ to that of a ‘member of a challenging discipline.’ Nursing as a career has long been misunderstood, and is still misunderstood today. Three years ago, as I was completing my pre-licensure nursing program, the ideas that nursing is a ‘calling’ and that nursing ‘has to be in your blood’ were commonly expressed. Although some students had been attracted to nursing because of the financial profit and job security associated with nursing, most of the students entered nursing believing altruism was the necessary virtue for being a successful nurse.
While serving for 14 years in the military as a combat medic, including two tours in Iraq, I found satisfaction both in caring for sick and wounded soldiers and in using my skills to save their lives and help them begin their recovery. Although some of the soldiers saw medics and nurses as being ‘angelic,’ especially while in combat where decisions needed to be made within seconds and under stressful settings, they also appreciated the knowledge and skills nurses brought to the battle arenas.
Currently I’m working in an ICU where the other disciplines look up to us and expect us to answer their questions regarding our patients. Now it’s time for the general public to also see nursing as a profession that requires intelligence, skill, and commitment. I support Dr. Rhodes and colleagues (2011) in writing that both the caring and the competence aspects of nursing need to be emphasized to help the public understand our role and to recruit qualified students who will step up to the daily challenges that nursing offers.
Oscar Avila, RN
University of Texas at El Paso
Rhodes, M., Morris, A., & Lazenby, R. (2011). Nursing at its best: Competent and caring OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 16(2). DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol16No02PPT01