If you are a nurse or midwife, then it is likely you have heard the phrase “Nursing is a calling” many times. For a student nurse or midwife, lectures never stop drumming this into your ears. This idea has formed the basis of many nursing admission interview questions for example “Why do you want to be a nurse?”. I am not sure you will ever go for a nursing admission interview without being asked this question.
What is a calling?
So, when we say, “Nursing is a calling”, what do we mean? According to Raatikainen R. (1997), A calling is a deep desire to devote oneself to serving people according to the high values of the task or profession. Traditionally, a calling referred to a Christian belief that one received a spiritual calling by God, mainly to a religious life of dedication and service (Carter, 2014). In olden times, people came into nursing through a religious conviction that they have been called to serve. Florence Nightingale received such a calling to service at a young age. The biography of Florence Nightingale written by Professor Emerita Louise Selanders stated, “At the age of 16, she experienced one of several ‘calls from God.’ She viewed her particular calling as reducing human suffering. Nursing seemed the suitable route to serve both God and humankind.” Ever since nurses have been deemed to be called into the profession.
However, the nursing profession has evolved over the years. Having the desire to serve humanity is not enough but one must have the academic and technical competence to become a nurse.
There are people who believe that the calling in nursing is being abandoned. There have been reported incidences of nurses’ neglect of patients and bad attitudes. To be honest, some of these are true which makes people believe that some people enter the profession just because of money. Whether people are making money in nursing is another topic for discussion.
On the other hand, one cannot overlook the evolution of the nursing profession. The calling in nursing is overused and abused. Perhaps this could be the reason why nurses are underpaid and left to work in extremely unfavourable conditions just because nursing is a “Calling”.
Raatikainen R. (1997). Nursing care as a calling. Journal of advanced nursing, 25(6), 1111–1115. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.19970251111.x
Carter M. (2014). Vocation and altruism in nursing: The habits of practice. Nursing Ethics, 21(6), 695-706. doi:10.1177/0969733013516159
Selanders, L. (2021, May 8). Florence Nightingale. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Florence-Nightingale