The Spirit of Nursing

Nursing as a Profession
By Isabel Hampton Robb

I have taken pains to dwell at some length upon the primary ethical points which a nurse should possess, because just in proportion to their presence or absence will be the measure of true success.  But the method of acquiring good habits is quite a different matter and rests almost entirely with the woman herself.

It is impossible to lay down any one rule dealing with the development of all these ethical principles.  Careful training, congenial surroundings, good traditions will do much, but the results will always be mediocre, unless the woman brings into her training the true spirit of nursing, upon which to build her education and experience.  We form our estimate of her character from her deeds, but these are only the outward expression of the measure of the inward spirit of love for her work and for humanity.  If her main purpose is based on high ideals, the development of sterling ethical attributes will be the direct fruit, and true devotion to her duties and her responsibilities will never be lost sight of.  Selfishness will have no part in her life.

Isabel Hampton Robb

Isabel Hampton Robb

Discipline of Self
The various other selfs, too, will find their proper places – self-control, self-reliance, self-possession – while self abnegation, though ever present, will be lost sight of entirely by one who has learned to regard her duties not as sacrifices but as pleasures and privileges, to be met in a spirit of cheerfulness, willingness and love.  And through this spirit of willingness and devotion will come the proper kind of discipline – the discipline of self – which will render that demanded by the hospital the more readily understood, appreciated and accepted, and will result in the right preparation for the more varied and exacting discipline of the outside world.

Discipline and Devotion to Duty
The reading about such requirements may have a hard sound and their attainment may at first seem impossible, but the actual accomplishing comes about in a gradual, almost unconscious fulfillment.  The path is long and thorny, but to those who tread it aright the final outcome will be a strong, attractive personality, faculties well in hand, a temper well under control, a high degree of toleration towards others, an even, cheery, gentle disposition, a refined, gracious manner and a devotion to duty.

Practical Proficiency
Such a personality – equally good all through – is not only inspiring and helpful to the patient, but stimulates all who come in contact with it.  I have in mind nurses, who have been great successes because of their cheerful, hopeful dispositions and ready adaptability, although their practical nursing was far from the highest order.  Such instances in themselves would teach that a due regard for ethical responsibilities is just as important as practical proficiency, for there are no circumstances, in which a woman is placed, where her individuality stands out more sharply, or where her personal influence is more felt than in the sick-room.  Such qualities should be cultivated and developed in the course of hospital training with courage, endurance and perseverance, “until labor and duty lose all the harshness of effort; until they become the impulse and habit of life when, as the essential attributes of the beautiful, they are like duty, enjoyed as a pleasure.”

-Robb is the Former President of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses.

-This essay an is excerpt from Nursing Ethics: For Hospital & Private Use, by Isabel Hampton Robb; Edited by Michele G. Kunz; Edited and designed by Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

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About Michele G. Kunz

I am a nursing educator and AHA Certified Instructor and I specialize in providing AHA Certification classes in ACLS, BLS, and PALS to healthcare professionals and students. I am also a certified six-sigma green belt (CSSGB).
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One Response to The Spirit of Nursing

  1. HELEN RITORZE says:

    YOU REALLY HAVE TO WANT TO BE A NURSE AND NOT JUST GO INTO IT BECAUSE THE PAY IS BETTER NOW THEN IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO. YOU REALLY WANT TO HELP PEOPLE LIVE A BETTER HEALTHY LIFE. BE ABLE TO TELL THEM WHY THEY SHOULD TAKE THEIR MEDICATION AT WHAT TIME SO THEY FEEL BETTER. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A NURSE AND DID NOT GO INTO IT UNTIL I WAS 24 YEARS OLD AND NOW 40 YEARS LATER I AM GLAD I DID.

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