Are You A Real Nurse?

“Are you a real nurse?” I have heard this question asked to my fellow colleagues many times throughout my career. I sometimes think I am in a Dr. Seuss book. Are you a “real” nurse? What makes a “real” nurse? Less letters or more letters at the end of your diploma? The colour of the band you had on your nursing cap (for us oldie goldies) or the amount of money that you make?

When asked what I do for a living and I reply that I am a nurse, the automatic assumption is that I am a Registered Nurse. When clarifying that I am an RPN I often get, “oh, so you are not a real nurse?”

Those words are heard too often by the hardworking, amazing individuals who choose to be RPNs. We have completed our schooling, upgraded, taken extra courses, worked side by side with many RNs and still have to justify our hierarchy in the health care system.

The RPN role has evolved to being Directors of Care in Long Term Care, running nursing units, completing care assessments in the community, working along the surgeon in the operating room, and so many more exciting positions that our smart, amazing, hardworking RPNs fill.

As RPNs, we have assisted new moms in their births, we have held the hands of dying seniors, we have assisted the doctor to reduce a fracture, given lifesaving medication to someone in need and dressed many wounds. Our skills and our values are the same as a “real nurse”. We all have the desire to help the weak, save the sick and exercise our skills wherever they are needed.

When we graduated as Nursing Assistants (RNAs), we did the work of a PSW and can truly appreciate the hard work and sacrifice to our skeletal and muscular system over the years. The evolution of the total patient care model has changed us from RNAs to the RPN role which mimics the RN workload but we are often given the heavier assignment. The RPN role has come a long way in my twenty-five-year career. We graduated in white dresses and white stockings with our prized nursing caps, and our shiny new stethoscope that we could never wear around our necks like in the movies due to the fear of being strangled by a distraught patient. We were proud of what we learned, the work we accomplished, and the lives we would change. 

So, what makes a “real nurse”? I think we are all real nurses. If you identify as a nurse, then you are a real nurse and a real hero, and we should all hold our heads up high and give ourselves a pat on the back. In my career as an RNA/RPN, we used to say a nursing prayer before every shift:

“Let me dedicate my life today to the care of those who come my way.

Let me touch each one with healing hands, and the gentle art for which I stand.
And then tonight when the day is done,

O let me rest in peace if I’ve helped just one.”

A real nurse would understand this. I am so proud to be an RPN.

~ Christine Hall, Owner/Operator, Plan A Durham, Mississauga & Niagara

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