1. Lal, M. Maureen DNP, MSN, RN


Daily, I see another story about a nurse who has decided to leave the profession. The constant stress of caring for desperately ill COVID-19 patients, staffing issues, and other challenges have combined to push nurses out of our profession at an alarming rate. What we don't hear about are stories of nurses who leave the profession temporarily and then opt to return. I recently read an editorial written by a nurse who resigned at the height of the COVID pandemic. After a year off, she realized how much being a nurse was a part of her identity and she returned to bedside care. Her story is my story, too. Reading it inspired me to depart from the usual format of the Magnet(R) Perspectives column to share my nursing story in hopes it will inspire others.


Article Content

All of us have reasons for pursuing a nursing career. What motivated me? Perhaps it was my childhood love of the storybook character Cherry Ames, RN,1 or visiting my grandmother in the hospital or spending time with my aunts who were nurses. Whatever the reason, I always knew I wanted to be a nurse. As soon as I was old enough, I volunteered as a candy striper (raise your hand if you remember them) and was honored to be selected as a member of the Future Nurse cohort. This meant added responsibilities, including writing down intakes and outputs and making beds! During my senior year of high school, I enrolled in an LPN program and graduated with both a high school diploma and an LPN license. My plan was to pay for my bachelor's degree by working as an LPN.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

My first LPN position was on a hospital oncology/respiratory unit. I was so excited and proud to being wearing my white uniform and cap (another blast from the past). However, my euphoria was short lived. At 18 years old, I was ill prepared to navigate the brazen incivility of the nursing team. I was shocked by team members' overt bullying. After 6 months, I was so dispirited, I decided to leave my job. I no longer wanted to be a nurse. I took out loans and earned a degree in the humanities instead.


Despite this inauspicious start, I continued to think of myself as a nurse. It felt as much a part of me as the other roles I held including daughter, sister, and wife. After a few years, my thinking evolved. I realized I could use my passion for nursing to make a difference. Even if I couldn't change the nursing culture overnight, I could influence it. I thought if enough nurses shared my view, perhaps we could make a collective impact. I returned to nursing school, earned my RN degree, and returned to the work I loved.


As an RN, I worked in a variety of settings, including public health, acute care, and ambulatory care. At every step, I benefited from amazing mentors who helped me learn and grow. I loved bedside nursing, and would probably still be doing it today, if not for one mentor who suggested I expand my horizons. As she pointed out, I could impact one patient at a time or I could be an advocate for all of the nurses providing bedside care and help bring positive change to the work environment.


My collective experience led me to my present position as Director of ANCC's Magnet Recognition Program(R). It's also what continues to drive my passion for nursing: to ensure that every nurse at every level has a voice. It's a premise that is foundational to the Magnet(R) model and culture. In a Magnet environment, all nurses, regardless of their role, can influence their working conditions, professional practice, and patient outcomes. Foundational concepts such as evidence-based practice, care quality and safety, shared decision making, diversity, equity and inclusion, and zero tolerance for workplace bullying, incivility, and violence not only encourage but also require nurses to get involved and make an impact.


I am frequently asked why the Commission on Magnet drew the proverbial "line in the sand," requiring all Magnet organizations to outperform national benchmarks for nurse engagement. As we can see in the original Magnet study from the 1980s,2 organizations that successfully attract and retain nurses have one thing in common: a supportive nursing culture that fosters engagement. Features include resources and staffing, autonomy, quality nursing care, interprofessional relationships, leadership access and responsiveness, professional development, and RN-to-RN teamwork. Magnet-recognized organizations celebrate their successes and provide meaningful recognition to their nurses, which allows them to focus on their passion to care for others. As nurses, we have an obligation to be advocates to create a culture that is supportive and inclusive. As nurse leaders, we must ensure we create a culture that honors the voices of all nurses. "What we permit we promote," an adage that applies to positive elements as well as negative. We must change the narrative to continually elevate nurses' voices through advocacy, self-care, and positive work relationships. In this way, we drive systemic changes that address today's biggest challenges and attract and retain the compassionate nurses we so desperately need. Many factors rekindle a passion for nursing. My passion is to make things better and ensure nurses' voices are heard. What are yours?




1. Wikipedia. Cherry Ames. Accessed July 23, 2022. [Context Link]


2. 2023 Magnet Application Manual(R). Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Credentialing Center; 2021:157. [Context Link]