Today kicked off National Nurses Week – a week designed to recognize and celebrate the nursing professional and the contributions nurses make in their communities.

We thought one way to celebrate and observe nurses would be to speak to them directly about what being a nurse means to them.

Here are some of the responses we received from nurses around the country and in various practice areas to share their stories:

Ernest J. Grant, PHD, RN, FAAN, President, American Nurses Association

“At a very young age, I developed a passion for both science and helping those in need. For me, being a nurse ticks many boxes and extends beyond the bedside into non-traditional settings. As clinicians, nurses provide patients and families quality and safe care; as researchers, nurses inform scientific and evidence-based discovery; as advocates, nurses influence health policy decisions; as educators, nurses help individuals make informed decisions such as getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Nursing is a highly specialized profession rooted in rigorous learning that continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing health care landscape and demand for services. One of the most rewarding aspects about being a nurse is being the closest to patients, providing them care from birth to the end of life. Healthcare is personal, and we are trusted advocates who ensure that all individuals, families, groups, communities and populations receive quality patient care and have access to the healthcare services that they seek. As a Black nurse specifically, it is rewarding to provide culturally competent care to underserved populations and shatter archaic stereotypes about what nurses look like. What is more, at the end of the day, knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life is very rewarding.”

Ladsine Taylor, MSN, GNP-BC, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner and Secretary, Board of Directors, Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association

“Nursing to me means the art of caring and compassion for others. I have come to this conclusion from my various professional nursing experiences as a primary care nurse and advanced practice nurse. Not only is nursing a science but an art in the way you communicate and connect with patients and families. When patients sense your inner compassion and feel valued, they heal faster. The most rewarding thing about nursing is seeing that moment when patients and families begin to understand their disease processes and make a lifestyle change.  I have joy in seeing my patients’ happiness when they have reached their goal of improved functional mobility, thereby enhancing their quality of life.” 

Holly Lorka, ICU RN, The Hospital at Westlake

“Being a nurse means being the point guard for a patient’s care. We monitor our patients constantly, communicate with everyone on their care team and advocate for their best outcomes. The most rewarding thing about nursing is getting to connect with new people every day while making a difference in their lives. Also, if I can crack someone up, that’s a bonus.”

Jennifer Pierce-Weeks, BSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P; Chief Executive Officer, International Association of Forensic Nurses

“To me, being a nurse means that I am committed to serving the patients I care for by advocating for best practice and ensuring they are granted autonomy in their medical decision-making. Patients rely on us for information and education that allows them to choose the best course of care for them based on their own individual needs. This means we need to bring empathy, compassion, cultural competence and expertise to this work without inserting the agenda of others, be they individuals or systems. The most rewarding thing about nursing is the human connection we establish with our patients that allows us to see when we have helped someone. Help comes in many forms-improving health outcomes, preventing injury or disease, increasing safety, improving systems, increasing access to care and so much more.”

Lillian A. Pryor, MSN, RN, CNN, 2020-2021 President, American Nephrology Nurses Association

“I have been a nurse for over 30 years, and I would never dream of doing anything else. This profession allows one to influence and effect change in so many ways and on so many levels. The most rewarding thing about being a nurse is having an opportunity to make a difference in the life of another human being. Nursing is constantly evolving and expanding. Being a nurse means “Leaving people better than when you found them.” (Marvin Ashton) Compassion, empathy, caring, sacrifice, truth and love is nursing.”

Christine M. Ruygrok, RN, MBA, National Secretary, American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) Board of Directors; Associate Quality Administrator, Southern California Permanente Medical Group

“Nursing has allowed me to have a varied, meaningful career that makes a difference in the lives of patients and their families. Ambulatory care nurses provide care for patients of all ages; care that affects every aspect of their lives. At the end of each day, I know my care has enriched the lives of the patients I serve. One of the most rewarding aspects of a nursing career is the ability to grow and evolve as my interests change. I’ve been able to start as a bedside ICU nurse, outpatient cardiac rehabilitation nurse, workflow consultant with the transition to the electronic medical record and administrator. Not many careers can offer that kind of opportunity and variety.”

Looking for more nursing-related content? View our other blog posts on nursing excellence here.