Years ago, I wrote about the day my son first hinted at becoming a nurse. In "My Son, the Nurse?" (Nursing2000, February*), I debated some of the pros and cons of making that decision.
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This month, Stephen is graduating from college with his BSN. He's a critical thinker and a very caring patient advocate, so he should be a great nurse. But like any mom, I worry about what awaits him in the workplace.
A question someone recently asked me sums up one of my chief concerns. It was at the Emergency Nurses Association's leadership conference, where I'd just given a presentation on nursing's image and provided examples of negative portrayals of nursing in the media. A member of the audience asked, "How do you respond to nurses who are negative, who complain about everything, and who say 'I'd never recommend nursing to anyone'?"
It's a tough question. I've worked in clinical environments where negativity prevailed and found it draining. I don't want that for my son or any other new nursing grad full of optimism about his career. And I don't want it for you.
In a note I wrote Stephen welcoming him into the profession, I also cautioned him about negative influences. My advice: Don't spend your time with negative people; they'll drag you down. Naysayers can infect the whole group, and once the vicious cycle starts, it's hard to stop.
That's not to say that they don't have some legitimate grievances. Listen to the complainers, take the information they offer, and if change is warranted, lead the charge. Just do it positively, with optimism.
The qualities Martin Luther King, Jr., considered vital to civil rights leaders 50 years ago are just as important to nurses today:
We must develop intelligent, courageous, and dedicated leadership[horizontal ellipsis]. In this period of transition and growing social change, there is a dire need for leaders who are calm and yet positive[horizontal ellipsis]. The urgency of the hours calls for leaders of wise judgment and sound integrity.
Confident that bright leaders and energized novices will steer nursing in the right direction, I wish each of you a very happy Nurses Week. And to all our new graduates, I wish you continued optimism about your career and the companionship of colleagues who love their work as much as you do.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN, BC, CMSRN, MSN