By a Medical Missionary of Mary
VOCATION implies a call • ing to, and an aptitude for, a particular task or undertaking, Without the former nursing becomes "a job to be done" either of necessity or with an indifference, painfully obvious to the patient. Without the latter one is not likely to complete the three-year training course.
It has been said that one of the greatest tragedies of today is the lost sense of vocation. Many have never experienced such a sense themselves, others may have lost it, perhaps through no fault of their own, which is sadder still. Those who live with the conscious thrill of the deep satisfaction found in accepting to the full the challenge of one's vocation, should have more pity than blame for those who have never experienced it.
If you include the word vocation in your vocabulary at all, you must admit it applies to nursing.
Why did you choose nursing in preference to other careers is one of the question that is invariably asked of the youthful candidate who presents herself for interview as a potential nurse, Many girls have passed through our hands and on reflection recently we have never heard the reply: "It's a good job or an interesting one."
No, the answer is more or less the same even if couched in different terms—a spontaneous "I want to serve sick people"—"T like helping others"—"I have always wanted to care for people." We have had older girls who gave up what one would term a more remunerative career and their answer to the question is: "I want to do more with my life, I am not getting satisfaction."
The dominant reason seems to be service—sincere service of the sick and worried. Emphasis may be laid on the latter word in our present era when nervous conditions are more prevalent, when many medical complaints are combined with a psychiatric illness, and drug addiction and alcoholism are quite commonplace among young people.
The nurse renders direct service to humanity. She begins her career with this idea of service foremost in her mind. But her vocation implies very specific responsibilities and there is always the danger of shirking these responsibilities. If she succumbs she is falling down on these ideals which first inspired her.
Her vocation is not just to do something. She cannot strictly say: "1 have some jobs to do." It is much higher than that. She has to say: "I have someone to tend, to treat, to comfort"—that Someone being Christ Himself—for the nurse "cures sometimes, relieves often, comforts always."
The service of the sick demands a special ideal which
must be nurtured and developed right through training. otherwise it may be lost sight of and then the profession suffers, as well as the patient. Writing in the Christian Democrat some years ago Leo Zodrow, S.J., aptly stated: "The nurse's ideal includes her basic task of assisting both the sick and the doctor; and also her conception of, and her attitude towards, her vocation, from which she derives the ability and strength to carry out this task as a service performed for the good of the whole community.
"The professional ideal is the foremost condition of one's genuine efficiency and real suitability. On the depth and purity of a professional ideal depends the value which a nation's culture attaches to a professional status. A living ideal provides the basis for inner unity among those belonging to a profession and makes it possible for one to take on a status with all its honour, dignity and solidarity?'
On the nursing profession and those responsible for the training of students rests the duty of keeping this ideal alive and so maintaining respect and love for their vocation.
Vocation implies dedication. What does this word mean? Too often the phrase "dedicated nurse" connotes the image of a woman whose whole outlook is narrow and so centred on her career to the exclusion of all normal human pursuits. This is a devastating image of the average person.
The nurse who is correctly trained will not only have achieved success in her job but success in developing to the full her personality. The fulfilment which comes from a sense of responsibility to oneself and to others brings with it an inner maturity which should affect the nurse's life outside as well as inside the hospital.
Our graduate nurses should be complete people who will make good citizens and good homemakers. The word Dedication itself, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means to declare for, or to give up to— the nurse uses her strength, her capabilities, her understanding, her knowledge, her kindness, to promote or restore health of body and mind.
It is an active creative thing,
essential in a nurse and it has no selfish or self-centred con notation. Nursing is far more than learning the techniques of nursing, it means knowledge, responsibility and respect for the human being and his environment.
The dedication of the nurse must be one of great collaboration. In olden days she tended to be more isolated, today she works in common with many others. From a professional point of view a nurse cannot afford to be isolated if she really wants to improve nursing. She needs to perfect her knowledge by keeping pace with science and research and by assuming responsibilities within her professional associations, She needs to maintain an active, not a passive, role, and the measure of her commitment corresponds to how much she seeks to promote the high quality of nursing to answer to individual and collective needs. She must also be constantly concerned with increasing her relationships because "the more the world is unified, the more it becomes clear that man's responsibilities go beyond particular groups, and gradually extend to the whole universe." (Vatican Council II, The Church in the Modern World.) The dedication of the Christian nurse must be rooted in love. Her life as a Christian and her professional life have to be interwoven, because 'religion is not a reason for escaping from earthly things and tasks; on the contrary it implies an additional obligation for man to work with all his brothers in the building of a more fraternal and just world, more in harmony with the ultimate fulfilment of the human family in the Mystical Body," (Vatican Council II.) One wonders if there is too little emphasis on the sense of vocation in relation to nursing and other like professions today. The criterion is made that young people are more concerned with what they can get out of a job than in what