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I do a lot of public speaking to audiences ranging from small groups to over 1,000. They've included all manner of health professionals and laypersons. I love the energy-the audience interaction, the sense of not only imparting wisdom but gaining insights from participants. Giving a presentation isn't really stressful for me anymore-or so I thought. A recent experience at a Girl Scout career night changed that.
I was invited to speak about nursing as one of several professional women recruited to help 12- and 13-year-old scouts explore career options through a series of group discussions. Scout leaders asked us to give an overview of our occupation, including educational requirements and ways to prepare for future employment. It sounded easy enough.
Now, I'll disclose that I'm not a parent. My only real experience with this age group came many years ago when I was an adolescent. The world has changed.
The first challenge was simply to get their attention. The teens dutifully took their seats, but their focus was not my presentation. It was text messaging. So, in competition with the cell phones, I asked the provocative question, "Who's considering a career in nursing?" Dead silence. I shifted to, "What type of career do you want?" Typical answers were marine biologist, veterinarian, physician, and teacher. Only 2 scouts of about 50 expressed an interest in nursing. Terrifying. Obviously I had work to do.
Launching into my best rendition of why nursing is an outstanding career choice, I was momentarily rendered speechless when a scout pointed at my feet and proclaimed, "My grandmother has those shoes."
I've given that evening a lot of thought. And I haven't quite looked at that pair of blue shoes the same way since-they've been relegated to the back of the closet.
Do teens see nursing as an old-fashioned profession that's out of step with other careers open to young people today? Clearly nursing has fallen off their radar screen. We need to inspire youth to choose nursing. This effort will take our collective strength.
What can be done? Engage children in conversation. Speak with passion about the impact you've made. Promote the art and science of nursing and the deep satisfaction derived from caring. Use your voice and experience to elevate the profession in children's eyes.
Let's not let future careers in nursing be pushed to the back of the closet!!
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, CEN
Vice-President, Emergency, Trauma, and Aeromedical Services
Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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