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Is nursing a profession or a job?

Written by AMNT Guest 3/4/2013 11:39:12 AM

Welcome to guest blogger Donna Cardillo!


Is nursing a profession or a job?

Donna Cardillo, MA, RN


I recently read an article on the web where the nurse author’s stated intent was to “enlighten” future and prospective nurses to the “harsh realities” of the profession. The piece listed things like the physicality of the job, the necessity of doing shift work, and a proclamation that nursing is not a profession but just a job. Holy encephalopathy, Batman! Are we still having this conversation?


I’m not going to bore you with definitions from Webster’s dictionary. Nor am I going to quote the many research papers on this subject from various scientific disciplines. I’m neither a nurse researcher nor a social scientist. I am, however a nurse who in her 35 years in the profession has a pretty good idea of what nursing is and what it isn’t. When you come right down to it, the following is all the evidence I or anyone else needs to put the issue to rest. So read on.


Nurses have specialized education and training validated by “professional licensure” in each state. We have a code of ethics and established practice standards we are bound to adhere to, a violation of which can result in our license being revoked or sanctioned. We have our own body of ongoing research that shapes and governs our practice. Nurses work autonomously within our scope of practice. We formulate and carry out our own plan of care for clients (when applicable); we apply judgment, use critical thinking skills, and make nursing diagnoses.


Nurses use their specialized knowledge, experience, and skill set to initiate life-saving measures, improve and promote the health and well-being of the planet, and ease pain, suffering, and loss. We are all united in that common mission—regardless of where we work, our position title, or whether we’re employed, unemployed, or self-employed.


Nursing is my profession and my life’s work. I have had various employment/self-employment positions over the years since becoming a nurse. But regardless of what title I had at any given time, and whether directly or indirectly working with consumers of healthcare (and we are all consumers of healthcare) I have always been working within the profession of nursing. In each role I had the same mission, ideals, and ethical and practice standards, while being aware of my role and responsibility as a healthcare expert (every nurse is a healthcare expert in his or her own way) and provider of care in a very broad sense. Today, as a nurse entrepreneur, when people ask me what I do, I say, “I am a self-employed registered nurse who spends her time speaking and a writing. You might say I heal with words.”


I am proud to be a member of the nursing profession for 35 years. I don’t want to discuss the issue anymore, I don’t want to debate or dispute it. I just want to keep on living it—to the best of my ability—always striving to raise the standards of my own practice and my profession as a whole for hopefully another 35 years…or more.


Donna Wilk Cardillo is the Career Guru for Nurses and “Dear Donna” columnist for Nursing Spectrum, NurseWeek, and www.nurse.com. Donna is also an ‘Expert’ Blogger at DoctorOz.com. She is author of The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses, Your 1st Year as a Nurse, and A Daybook for Beginning Nurses. Ms. Cardillo is creator of the Career Alternatives for Nurses® seminar and home-study program. You can reach her at www.dcardillo.com.

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5 of 21 comments

ohreally@yahoo.com says:
July 15, 2014 9:08 pm

We don't formulate a "plan of care" and we don't need a "nursing diagnosis." That's the damned truth. We use the medical diagnosis. We punch a clock. We are not independent and cannot schedule our own hours and see patients when we want to or see other patients before according to our own desires. We wipe the ass. We have no help. We are understaffed. We are sent home when we have one too many nurses. We are NOT professionals We are labour.

May 7, 2014 7:31 pm

Love it!!!

Apryl Gleespen says:
November 10, 2013 8:52 pm

Nurses are trained professionals. You've earned it! Toss those scrubs and get into Brenda June's beautiful Shapes at brendajune.com Step away from the crowd; never let them tame you!

adhystikz says:
November 10, 2013 12:27 pm

hello, do you have an article/journal which highlighting the nurse whether as occupation or profession from pavalko's occupational-professional model?thank you

admas says:
October 28, 2013 2:59 am

what is nurse?