For most people, fear is a survival instinct. For nurses, it’s an “on” switch.
Fear reminds us of what a key role nurses play in times of crisis. Nurses are the pillars of strength in shaky situations. The suffering, the lost, the dying, and the fearful all look to us as a source of calm, of hope. It’s why, when this university/hospital system closed for all but essential employees due to the recent unrest in Baltimore City, we know who they’re talking about. We get in our cars and head to work.
We confront our fears every day as nurses, as human beings. As highly trained professionals, it’s up to us to manage the fear that comes with the enormous responsibility and challenge that nursing by its very nature carries—when we look into the eyes of a dying patient, anticipating the arrival of the next ambulance, working with patients in war-torn and poverty stricken countries, or tending to those with deadly and highly infectious diseases. Managing fear is how we grow.
Those who pass through the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing get an earful (and then some) about “resilience,” snapping back, bucking up, or getting up when the rug is pulled out beneath your feet. It is part of the value system—the professionalism—that we teach, preach, and live.
As we begin the celebration of National Nurses Week, we applaud and recognize nurses worldwide who stand strong in the face of monsters like Ebola, a devastating earthquake in Nepal, or the horrible violence in the streets that we recently experienced in our beloved city.
Like all residents of Baltimore, we were frightened this past week not only for our safety but how fractured our communities are and how much work we as nurses face in trying to heal old wounds of generational distrust, poverty, inaccessibility to healthcare and education, and feelings of injustice.
But as nurses, we will not run. We will not hide. Instead, it flipped our “on” switch. We will step forward with compassion, skills, and grit to find solutions to stop the hurting and begin the healing.