The Value of Nurses in the Community

By Val Gokenbach on Wed, Feb 12, 2014

nursing role

When someone decides to enter the nursing profession, it means they choose to help people who are in need. However, the roles and responsibilities of nurses today are growing within the healthcare system. Will this impact the importance of nurses in the community?

Here is an anecdote that helped answer that question for me:

As I was leaving the hospital recently after a late day of meetings, crossing the parking deck coming in my direction was an elderly man with a very tired look on his face. Under his right arm was a long cardboard box with the words 1-800-flowers on the side.

In that moment, I was struck by the humanity and personal challenges that all of our patients and their loved ones face. This gentleman was visiting someone he loved, perhaps a wife, perhaps an older child, perhaps a sibling. But regardless, the look on his face was one of concern and sorrow. As I passed him, I said hello and wished him a good day. He gave me a little smile which quickly dissolved as he headed toward the front entrance of the hospital.

Breaking Free from the Routine

I realized at that point how much of our work becomes just our routine work, how much of the pain and sorrow becomes routine. I felt somewhat guilty that I was leaving the hospital to teach an aerobics class and then spend the rest of my evening with my family, while others suffered so much.

I also realized the worth of nurses to the community. We are the human component in the healthcare delivery system, uniquely prepared to reach out to those in need. We fill the void of human caring created by clinical environments. We, as nurses, can never let go of that awesome responsibility that we share.

As the most trusted profession in the world, it is our calling to be there for those in pain and suffering, those in fear and those that are moving on to worlds beyond us. It struck me that it is also critically important that we, as nurses, never allow ourselves to become hardened to those who need us so much. What a waste it would be to miss an opportunity to emotionally be in the moment and reach out and help those we serve.

A Nurse’s Responsibility

Take a moment to reflect on your role as a nurse and the importance you play in the community. Relive those special moments when you realized a difference and the satisfaction that you felt knowing you were able to help. It is an honor and a privilege to serve in the capacity that we do and to possess the skills that are so uniquely nursing.

We may have times that we are tired, drained, frustrated and disillusioned with our profession, but the greater good of what we do and who we serve far outweighs the episodic challenges. I am grateful every day that I am a nurse. Despite the challenges, I would never want to go through life as anything else. As part of the nursing community, let us value our existence to make a difference in our patients.



25 COMMENTS

Anonymous 10 months ago
I am happy, very happy that I am a nurse and I know what I am worth. I would never stop caring for people. Thanks for inspiring me again.

Anonymous 2 years ago


Nurses are like angels on the earth. Nursing should be considered as a service rather than a profession. What they are doing cannot be done by anyone. They are serving people day by day without any discrimination. They are angels as they are the ones who save lives and serve lives. learn more



Anonymous 2 years ago
I have been working part time at a transitional care facility (usually work the OR) and I have an extensive background in ICU, PACU and OR. My best days are days when I spend time with the patient actually performing the care I was called to do. Listen, assess, collaborate and execute the care plan-using my experience to educate and watch the patient respond. Understanding that I too can be that patient someday-what kind of care do I want? Reflecting on that fact grounds me in my practice and makes me the best I can be. When you're patient or their family members say to you, can you stay? Or, you're the first one to explain that so I understand it, or I appreciate how you made me feel today. That's the feedback I wish the nurses in the OR could get. It's worth all the fatigue. While other nurses may call me crazy, I know that my passion for doing good in this world is the most sane experience I have. I will keep on, and I encourage other nurses to not let the naysayers get in your head. Continue to do the right thing.

Anonymous 2 years ago
I took to heart all that stuff about advocating for your patients, and spoke up about the open racism I was seeing directed not only towards black and Latina nurses, but towards patients who were not white. As a result, I was blackballed & can't get a job as a nurse. My impact? zero. And the culture can continue its racist ways.

Anonymous 3 years ago
So true and so very much the heart of the matter. Everything these days is required to be measurable, quantifiable. There is so much about nursing that falls outside of what can be studied, scrutinized, labeled. I speak from the vantage point of a nurse, of a family member, as a patient. There is the science of nursing, but also the art of nursing. We need to remember the important aspects of what we do that can not be measured, that are very subjective, but may all the difference in the world for a patient or their loved ones!

Anonymous 4 years ago
Thankyou Dr. Val for your article, we as nurses have so many challenges it is easy to lose sight of what our profession truly is about. Articles like this are needed to uplift our tired souls!
Also thankyou to Tom D for responding to the people who felt it necessary to not only be negative about the article but also rude to their fellow nurses that gave positive reviews. It is nurses like them that make it hard for the rest of us to keep our perspective. You replied with the same response I was thinking as I read theirs, they need to make a change!

Anonymous 4 years ago
Dr. Val, thank you for this article. It came just when I needed it. I lost a very special patient Saturday morning (they are all special but he was extra special). I cried, the family cried, they thanked me and I cried again and again. It was a rough nite - I was the supervisor, had to take 7 pts on the acute unit (the only nurse) with 2 techs and a dying patient who had been with us over a year and 6 vents. The next morning my relief supervisor - who had left me with this mess - said "I knew you could handle it" Yes I did handle it but I should not have been put in that situation. All 7 patients received excellent care and none knew I was on my own. When my relief realized I had been crying (he had no pt assignment) he told me I should not get so involved! Huh? I told him the day I stop caring is the day I need to change professions. Thank you for the affirmation that nurses have feelings and we hurt also.

Anonymous 4 years ago
At the Last Supper we are told that those who are chief among us should be the servant of all. To look down on the idea of service is, I believe, deeply misguided. If we look to others for our happiness, then we are certain to be disappointed. If we feel that we, as nurses, are doing something important and doing it well, then is not that something for which we should be grateful? I have often thought that the patients and families who were most grateful to me, and the patients and families for whom I did the most, were two quite different groups, with minimal overlap. I, too, have often been 'drained, tired, frustrated, and disillusioned.' But, after some recreation or rest, I am able to re-enter the battle refreshed. As a father, I am more deeply frustrated, tired, disillusioned, and than I ever am at work, because my family is more important to me than my work is. But I am able to rest, to have fun, and to see again all that I love in my son, even though I see him making choices which make us fear that he will cause himself unecessary pain, and that we can't do anything about it. If we allow the negative to overwhelm the positive in our lives, and, this is a matter of choice, of the will, then no set of circumstances will allow us to be happy. Sometimes we (not just nurses, but all of us) need to get over ourselves.

Anonymous 4 years ago
"Because professional nursing is repeatedly characterized...we are treated as servants." Those who consider that they are not treated fairly in their professional lives or that they are made unhappy by the way they are treated should consider making a change to a different job, although not necessarily to a different profession. Allowing resentment to grow and flourish in your heart does provide a certain amount of secondary gain, but in the end nothing good will come from that. I have frequently been unhappy with circumstances surrounding my work as a nurse. I try not to let such things interfere with the gratitude I have for being in the privileged postion to help patients and families at special times in their lives, and the privileged position I am in now of sharing the professional journey of students, who often, I beieve, have much to teach the rest of us. My suggestion: put on your big girl/ big boy pants and either get over yourselves, or, for your own sake and for the sake of others, move on to some place where you can be happy. A few generations ago, nurses wee, perhaps, exploited and underappreciated, at least by contemporary standards. Today nurses are respected, looked up to, and well compensated. Please, don't be unwilling to take 'yes' for an answer.

Anonymous 4 years ago
Thank you for saying it so beautifully.

Anonymous 4 years ago
Misplaced, false guilt keeps nurses way down on the bottom rungs of the professional ladder, if we can even say we're ON the ladder. The idea of Professional Nursing being a calling is the very reason WHY we are doing the most ridiculous amount of NON NURSING tasks NO OTHER PROFESSIONAL WOULD EVER AGREE TO DO. WE DO IT AND ASK FOR MORE!!! BECAUSE Professional Nursing is repeatedly characterized as an "honor and privilege to serve," we are treated as servants. No wonder we are "drained, tired, frustrated and disillusioned with our profession." The challenges are not "episodic." The challenges are DAILY, and I don't see the situation changing anytime soon.

Anonymous 4 years ago
Very good comment by Steve J to counteract the "fluff" from the previous comments. I'll 'add' to Steve just this: does the Dr. have any response for the "ageism" and resulting bullying that has replaced all of the 'idealistic nursing' the Dr. speaks of?
I know we "ate our young" (not me: I was eaten) in the '70's thru '90's resulting NOW with our 'a####' being bitten---but haven't we had enough of that? Thanks. My last comment, you didn't print---hope this one doesn't dissuade you also?

Anonymous 4 years ago
You know when I read super hero self congratulatory exposes about the Lives Of Saint Nurse it just makes it all the much harder with the manic type mentality that I face every day in the nursing profession that is on the one hand Nurse Of The Month and the next my worse Nightmare Histrionics on the unit where I work. Your story is all nice to share the compassion stories with the rewards of the spirit sweet but don't forget there's nothing to feel bad about in shedding the codependent angelic wings and continuing to fight the corporations for improved professional status. I hope this doesn't knock your cap off!

Anonymous 4 years ago
Well said. I will share this at our Nurse Peer Review Meeting in the morning.

Anonymous 4 years ago
The heart and the art are first and foremost.

Anonymous 4 years ago

This absolutely warms my heart! When we are doing the science and mechanics of nursing -- we must not forget the art,... and the heart.


Anonymous 4 years ago

This is actually why I became a nurse, but isn't it a shame that paperwork has to get in the way of performing this most important part of our shift, the reason most of us became nurses...I understand the importance of the chart, I do, but I hate it that the chart and the admit or discharge paperwork takes over our time and makes it impossible to spend the kind of time with out patients we want to spend.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks, I needed that!


Anonymous 4 years ago

While I thoroughly enjoyed this article, I also thought it overlooked the truth that nurses also experience pain, suffering AND loss. We're not invincible. I've been that man with the box of flowers. I don't need to be "reminded" of the fear and sorrow of illness and death -- I need only remember. It's this, my own personal experience with loss, that makes me a more compassionate nurse.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you so much for the uplifting words. Sometimes we need a reminder on how important our profession is... we do make a lot of difference.


Anonymous 4 years ago

So very true. As a hospice nurse, it is so important to keep an open mind and heart and not become calloused to those hurting all around us. Thank you.


Anonymous 4 years ago

I have been a registered nurse for 34 years and deeply resonate with Dr. Val's sentiments. It has been this internal nudge that has kept me going all these years and keeps me in touch with my patients. Thank you for expressing it so well for all of us!


Anonymous 4 years ago

What a beautiful article! Very poignant!


Anonymous 4 years ago

Reading this article reminds us why we are nurses. Thank you so much.


Anonymous 4 years ago

OMG that was the most amazing, heartfelt,understanding story!!!!It actually brought tears to my eyes....Thank You for bringing our true responsibilities to life again!!!!