1. Schnautz, Lynn MSN, CCRN, CCNS

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I've been a critical care nurse for more than 15 years-and I still love my profession.


Recently, when my husband had to make a career change, I suggested that he explore nursing. Kurt is hardworking and wonderful with people. He has a strong knowledge of science and would be an asset to nursing. He loved the idea, so I made arrangements for him to observe a cardiopulmonary bypass and to tour several units at my hospital.


To my surprise, only two nurses of the more than 20 he met thought nursing would be a good career move. The majority said things like, "Why do you want to do that?" "Are you nuts? Nursing is the worst job you could have," or "Lynn, don't you love your husband? Why would you do this to him?"


I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and neither could he. Why would these nurses reject help when there is a worsening national nursing shortage? What bothered me most was that such discouraging comments were being made by nurses. No wonder no one is joining the profession.


How often have you heard a colleague discourage a nursing student? Are we not our own worst enemies? Are we not responsible, at least in part, for our profession's crisis? I believe that each of us has an obligation to promote nursing. It's to our advantage-and the profession's-to proudly tell others what nurses do and emphasize the benefits of a nursing career: decent salaries, a wide variety of specialty areas and employment settings, flexible schedules, the ability to take your skills anywhere and everywhere and find a job-I could go on and on about the opportunities. We should teach the public about the profession. Nursing is open to everyone-including men and minorities (not just women and whites). Nursing is not for those who "aren't smart enough for medical school." We should also welcome newcomers to the profession and celebrate their career choice; we certainly shouldn't discourage them.


If children haven't been exposed to nursing, how can they choose it as a profession? Nurses should encourage middle- and high-school students to explore careers in nursing. Last year I spearheaded a career day for the kindergarten class at my daughter's school. It may be years before children this age decide what they want to do when they're grown, but why not volunteer to give a short presentation on your job or coordinate a career day at a local school? Encourage students to explore all of the health care professions by volunteering at a local hospital during summer breaks and on weekends.


We can also propose that our hospitals host middle- and high-school students on "job-shadow" days (the next Groundhog Job Shadow Day, sponsored by the National Job Shadow Coalition, is Monday, February 2, 2004; the next Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, sponsored by the Ms. Foundation for Women, is Thursday, April 22, 2004).


I'm proud to have helped bring new nurses into the profession. For example, last year, when our baby-sitter, Natalie, returned home for spring break from Indiana University, she still hadn't decided on a major. I suggested that she work as a nursing technician on my unit. She did, and she loved nursing. I'm happy to report that Natalie will graduate in May 2005 with a degree in nursing. And this past summer, at a party for my daughter, two of her friends' mothers expressed an interest in nursing, so I made arrangements for them to meet with nursing advisers at two local universities. They both began nursing classes this fall.


Nurses can help solve the nursing shortage. We must speak favorably about our profession: the public is listening. I challenge each and every one of you to find one person to take your place in nursing. So far this year I've found four.