The first thing on many new nursing graduates’ minds is finally wearing that pin after so much hard work. The second is finding a job.

For those gathered July 19 for the Degree Completion Ceremony at Shriver Hall, Baccalaureate Program representative Clifton Thornton offered a thoughtful, offbeat bit of advice.

“Plan ahead, and realize that becoming a nurse means that your new job is to care for people,” Thornton told fellow graduates of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. “And as we go out and care for people, your new idea as you go to work every day is to have the goal of working yourself out of a job.”

Thornton explained that this means doing a task so well, so completely that you’re no longer needed, “because that’s when you know that you’ve done the most good.” Then, he said, move on to the next challenge. [Watch a video of the ceremony.]

The sentiment bookended a reminder from Karen Haller, PhD, RN, vice president for nursing and patient care services at Johns Hopkins Hospital: “Comfort doesn’t lead to growth.”

Haller told a story of climbing Yosemite Falls, a stern test for the healthiest hiker, and feeling a bit smug about her success—until, on the way down, she saw a young hiker briskly ascending the narrow, rocky trail on a prosthetic leg. “I was humbled. I was moved. And I really didn’t believe it could be done,” Haller said, adding her thoughts immediately went to the young woman’s nurses, therapists, and doctors, and the job they had done to make the stranger’s climb possible.

“I was reminded that people heal,” Haller said. “It is our privilege to help them heal. It’s our privilege to help them meet their goals--and not limit what their goals are by what we think is humanly possible.”

Haller spoke of the astonishing technological advances, such as those in prosthetics, since her nursing career began and of “the power it puts in your hands.” Still, she cautioned the class to remember that their skills, brains, and courage are the most important tools at their disposal. “What brought you to healthcare was not a computer. … Those who suffer need you to be something more than a nurse with technical skills. They need you to be a healer. We live in a world where healing has never been more needed.”

The ceremony awarded 128 bachelor of science degrees as well as recognizing two MSNs, five MSN/MPHs, and one PhD student who will complete their degree requirements in August.

Learn more about the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.