Is Nursing Still a Calling Even as a Second Career?

There is a common trope that we hear in nursing that it is a calling and not a career. While many in the profession would agree with this, that’s not to say that it is one hundred percent true. In fact, there is no real consensus about whether nursing, or even healthcare in general, is just a job or something more. Here are a few things we’ve discovered when discussing nursing as a calling.

What is a Calling?

When people say they feel called to something, they are generally referring to the idea that there is a deeper intrinsic meaning to the job or activity. The author of an article from the Journal of Nursing Administration defines a calling as “a deep internal desire to choose a task or profession which a person experiences as valuable and considers her own.” In other words, people who feel called to a profession or field experience a sort of personal validation for their choice. It may feel extra fulfilling or give spiritual satisfaction. In essence, nursing as a calling means getting something back that is more than just a paycheck.

When I began my first job as a nurse, I worked with a woman who had been a nurse for 20 years. She was amazing at her job. She cared for patients

and always went above and beyond. She seemed to never be stressed out and she always had a kind word to say to her coworkers. I was in awe; how could someone who had been working in such a high-stress job for so long seem so utterly content?

After a while, I had to know. I asked her how she managed to stay so upbeat with a job like this. She responded immediately that she didn’t consider nursing a job; it was her calling. I asked her what she meant by that and she responded that she always knew she was meant to be a nurse, that it was almost her destiny. She said that despite it being a difficult position, she knew she was where she was supposed to be. She knew as a young girl and had worked for this goal her entire life. She found satisfaction in her work and she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Is Nursing a Calling?

My coworker is not the only nurse to feel that way. It is an incredibly challenging job, of course, so if people don’t feel particularly called to it, why begin nursing school in the first place? There are so many easier ways of getting a paycheck, jobs that are more convenient, not as hard physically, and that involve a whole lot less blood.

Ask any nurse out why they work, and they probably won’t tell you it’s because of the paycheck. With nursing school being so expensive and nurses not earning nearly as much as they should for the work that they do, it seems like there’s no other reason to enter healthcare if you don’t actually feel a personal call to it.

Others disagree, of course. For example, an anonymous blogger writing for the side Florence is Dead had this to say about nursing as a career versus a calling:  “I’m not a nurse out of the goodness of my heart. I’m a nurse because I chose a career doing what I love: taking care of others. I didn’t become a nurse accidentally. It wasn’t involuntary. We are educated. I didn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for a ‘calling’.  I expect to be reimbursed for my skill.”

A Later-in-Life Calling

There is an excellent argument for the fact that nursing can be considered a calling. Many men and women are entering the field after already having established a career. This career change is difficult to explain as a simple job change. After all, who would leave a steady, well-paying job in the middle of their career to go back to school for a few years to spend thousands of dollars? Who wants to go through the job-search process if they don’t have to?

These people must feel truly called to nursing in order to make the sacrifices. True, like the blogger above mentioned, it’s possible that they have an affinity for taking care of others and that’s the reason they wanted a change. But there’s so much risk and insecurity involved in a career change that there has to be something more to do.

Final Thoughts

If you are a nurse, you have your reasons for joining the field. Whether that’s because it’s something you love, you come from a family of nurses and want to keep up tradition, or you felt genuinely called to the career, you are doing what you love, and that’s really all that matters.

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