Is nursing a calling or a profession? This question has been the subject of discussion for many years. During my studies as a University of Namibia student and even post-university, I have been hearing “nursing is a calling” and not a profession.
However, nursing has changed radically throughout the years. Profoundly, nursing has been considered the caregiving profession accounted for nuns and some monks. For us to understand this debate, we should firstly define “calling” and “profession”. According to Raatikainen (2008) a calling is a deep desire to devote oneself to serving people according to the high values of the task or profession. On the contrary, a profession is described as an occupation in which specialised training is required (Blais & Hayes, 2011). Furthermore, a profession includes a formal qualification that will be bestowed to the candidate upon completion of the training.
Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing and today referred to as the mother of nursing, believes she was called by God to serve humanity without reputation, as she wrote in her diary “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for Him alone without reputation”. When she approached her parents to inform them about her ambitions to become a nurse, her parents were not amused by her choice and forbade her to pursue appropriate training. She, however, did not heed their advice. Eventually, she concluded that nursing was her calling; she believed the vocation to be her divine purpose. She devoted her time caring for the wounded and dying soldiers during a horrible war. During her time as a nurse, caring for wounded and dying soldiers, soldiers began calling her “the lady with the lamp”, as she walks around with her lamp, making rounds during the night from one bedside to another.
Nursing is a discipline concerned with healthcare delivery; it is a helping profession; it is service-oriented to maintain the health and well-being of people, and it is an art and a science. Nursing as a profession profoundly corroborates with care and compassion. Nurses should demonstrate empathy and sympathy in their care. The nursing profession is concerned with the promotion of health, prevention of illnesses, diagnosis and treatment.
For one to be certified as a nurse in Namibia, they should have undergone training and received a qualification from an accredited institution and they should have registered with the Health Professions Councils of Namibia. There are various pathways for nursing education, ranging from two-year certificate programs to four-year degree, masters and doctorate programs.
In Namibia today, parents are advising their children to take up nursing. Some chose nursing because they see it as their profession while those advised to take up nursing and perhaps did not like it at the beginning, ended up enjoying nursing. Thus, nursing is a calling and a profession.
I strongly believe that everyone is chosen and called by God to serve people in various professions. Nursing is not just a calling, but it is a profession just like any other professions. If nursing is a calling, how about all other professions that ought to take care of humanity such as medicine? Is medicine a calling or a profession? In my view, nursing should be considered as a profession owing to the care and empathy with greater understanding for all human beings regardless of any dissonance. Indeed, nursing is a noble profession and not just a calling. As we join the world in commemorating the International Nurses Day, we should be reminded that nursing is a profession of caring and nursing care is a calling. Dear nurses, you are the jack of all trades doing almost everything in your various duty stations from a cleaner to a doctor and an administrator. This shows how important you are in our communities. Furthermore, as we are celebrating “the year of the nurse and midwife” including accoucheur, be the difference that makes the difference. Your caring hands safeguard and affirm our humanity. Caring is what makes the nursing profession a caring profession and it makes nursing a special profession that is admired by many. Florence Nightingale and other Nurses’ Corps had taken care of soldiers who were dying of Typhoid and Cholera than the battlefield injuries. We call for more Florence Nightingales as the world battles Coronavirus. Of course, institutions should ensure that nurses and other healthcare workers are protected at all costs. Fellow nurses, let shape up our services and deliver the best until we retire.
*Petrus K Shingandji is a Registered Nurse working at Ongwediva Medipark Academic Hospital as a Training & Development Coordinator. The views expressed in this article are that of his and does not represent Ongwediva Medipark.