Nurses Don’t Like to Be Called Heroes, but…

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The world of nursing is a unique place. A community filled with apparent contradictions few outside its radius seem to understand.
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The world of nursing is a unique place. A community filled with apparent contradictions few outside its radius seem to understand. 

Their career choice is the most respected in the world, but nurses bristle at the word “career,” they see their job as a calling. They are highly trained professionals who delight in ordinary things like new scrubs and comfortable sneakers. Nurses are both supremely tough and sincerely tender. They calculate complex medical dosages, perform life-saving procedures, and lead robust versions of “Happy Birthday” — sometimes all in the same grueling 12-hour shift.

What other career calling demands that kind of range?

Perhaps the most striking paradox is that nurses are heroes who reject the illustrious title. Words like hero or angel or godsend are dismissed quickly with a deflecting reply: “I’m none of those things. I’m just your nurse. Now take your meds!”

Maybe they’re right. Maybe “hero” is too strong a term. Who am I to question what title a nurse will or won’t accept?

But there is something I can’t get away from . . .

When my mom spent agonizing days in the cancer ward of a rural North Carolina hospital, my family got to know some . . . well, we got to know some heroes.

  • When the doctors talked over our heads, it was the nurses who stayed and explained the complicated medical jargon.
  • When Mom’s pain got so intense it became impossible to rest comfortably, it was the nurses who came in every 15 minutes and gently readjusted her pillows.
  • When visitors stayed too long, it was the nurses who became bouncers, shooing the well-intentioned guests away.
  • And when Mom and Dad celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary in that tiny hospital room, just a month before she passed away, it was the nurses who deftly smuggled in a cake with candles.

So, my view on what title a nurse deserves is tainted. And so is the view of everyone I know who has a similar story.

The industry may rightly call nurses LPNs, RNs, NPs, clinicians, medical professionals, etc. But my sisters and I? My dad and I? My children and I? We call them heroes.

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