1. Donnelly, Gloria Ferraro PhD, RN, FAAN

Article Content

I never had any doubts that I wanted to be a nurse. I liked the idea of helping people through tough situations, of making a difference in their lives, of comforting and caring. I also liked the authority and prestige that came with the title "nurse." In my neighborhood, if you were a nurse, you were somebody!


As I became more deeply immersed in nursing over the years, the influences of practice experiences added to the complexities of my intent to nurse. Dramatic encounters with patients, families, colleagues, and students also reinforced my choice of nursing as a career. There was 17 year old Bonnie, experiencing psychotic episodes, who stared at me across the seclusion room floor where we were both sitting, and asserted, "If I weren't nuts, you'd have no reason to be here!" I was there for Bonnie when reality was tenuous. There was Bert, the father of an acutely ill young man with schizophrenia, who sobbed in my arms, "What did I do wrong? I even went out at 3 in the morning if he wanted an ice cream cone. We worked on letting go of the guilt." There was Connie, a nurse colleague and cancer patient, who taught me more about dealing creatively with chronic illness than any teacher, course, or book. There was Maria, an off beat, quirky student of mine, who secretly confessed that her love was art, not nursing, and that she was in the nursing program to please her father. I helped Maria and her father leave nursing behind. Experiences like these facilitate the reinvention of our intent to nurse. And this reinvention process continues as long as nurses nurse.


In today's practice environments, wrapped in technology and fiscal constraint, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the moments that embody the essence of nursing practice: caring in the technical and psychological sense, supporting, alleviating the pain, empowering, teaching, researching, and forging new paths. Considering the current and protracted shortage of nurses, increasing demands on those in practice and a health care system struggling for stability in a sea of chaos, the question of why nurses nurse must be explored. This question should be high on the list of those considering entering and exiting a nursing career and those who are trying to recruit and retain nurses.


The authors of this issue do a masterful job at exploring the question "why nurses nurse" from the perspective of intentionality. This construct provides a framework of structure and meaning for nursing actions on behalf of patients, families, communities, and our profession. In a health care system that is facing the loss of nurses through natural career attrition and dissatisfaction, it is important to keep in touch with the caring essence of nursing, with why nurses nurse.