Dr. Walter Lawrence, Jr., is ninety years old and still seeing patients twice a week at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Lawrence recently wrote about why he loves his profession and reasons for his continuing practice. Although Dr. Lawrence’s letter was addressed to potential medical school applicants, his remarks are also applicable to the nursing profession.
Despite many changes in healthcare that often seem to make practitioners technical “specialists” and less of the kind of compassionate, caring and supportive practitioners they aspire to be, Dr. Lawrence still derives major satisfaction from his own career. In fact, says Dr. Lawrence, the satisfaction that he experiences remains unchanged from the outset of his practice.
First, Dr. Lawrence considered what it is about treating other human beings that is so fulfilling. The answer, according to Dr. Lawrence, is the patient. Dr. Lawrence further elaborates by saying that it’s the “human connection” that makes the difference for him:
Even at my age, I always look forward to my weekly clinic sessions with patients, even as I wisely stepped back from the operating room some time ago. I sincerely hope each day that I am providing some service to my fellow man, but I know for certain these clinical interactions benefit my own soul beyond measure…Nothing is more fulfilling than the gratitude of another human being for your professional help…
Dr. Lawrence also points to the wide variety of experiences he enjoys on a continuing basis. Every day, he says, is filled with new ideas and problems, and interactions with patients, colleagues and perhaps students. Dr. Lawrence endorses the idea that this variety is the “spice of life.” This is certainly true for nurses who work in home care. Who knows what they will encounter as they visit their patients?! Surely the good, the bad and the ugly!
Finally, Dr. Lawrence says that he is energized by young people coming into his profession. The same can certainly be said for nursing. There are a number of very experienced, seasoned nurses working in home care, private duty and hospice care who may not be practicing for many more years. There is vast knowledge and experience among these older practitioners that cannot be lost. Like Dr. Lawrence, these nurses should pass what they know along to younger practitioners. They may even find it exciting to do so!
Nursing is an honored profession for all of these reasons. The importance of nurses cannot be overstated. In short, they matter.
National Nurses Day is May 6