Nursing: Is it a Career, A Calling, or Some Mixture of Both?

A few months ago, I posed a question on my social media outlets.

I can tell you- the responses were ALL over the place. Which, once I read through and synthesized them, it led me to wonder my own question…

Is nursing a career, a calling, or some mixture of the two?

To start this post out, I will share with you some of the responses. Quick disclaimer right up front… some of them are disturbing, if you love your nursing career. Others, well… they sing the praises of the profession of nursing. So here we go…

There were 22 people who responded in the affirmative, some of them saying:

  • “Yes, because I can’t picture myself doing anything else (unless maybe being a geologist…but I would only want to work in Hawaii and study the volcanoes there). I love nursing and helping others.”
  • “Wouldn’t change a thing! Why? Because I give my heart and soul and my career as a nurse gives back ten-fold!”
  • “I would do it again. It’s still one of the most flexible career paths to take. So many options for career growth also!”
  • “I would – so many ways to create the profession you want.”
  • “Yes- because it is truly a gift to the soul of others and self.”
  • “Absolutely! Nursing has brought me so many fabulous opportunities. From working in a hospital, to working in a clinic to doing therapy, being a clinical instructor and starting my own business. I LOVE BEING A NURSE.”

There were 5 people who responded less positively, some saying:

  • “No. Because it ruined my life.”
  • “No because there are other ways to serve humanity that do not require 10 hours of work in an 8 hour day, every day.”
  • “No, I would have went after my original dream.”

So, let’s pause here a moment… Take some time to reflect on this question as it relates to your own nursing career. And tell us below…

If you had to do it all over again, would you choose nursing as your career?

Nursing: A Calling or A Career?

Five of the respondents to the question above mentioned the fact that they were “called” to nursing. I was curious about this, so I asked further what that meant. Because, to be honest, I do not find myself “called” to the profession of nursing.

The nurses who stated that they were called said things like, “That passion, it’s a calling…” Or “Nursing is more than a job; it is a calling.” One nurse even equated the calling of nursing to being a lifestyle choice, one where she lives the profession of nursing day-to-day.

Being curious about this notion of being called to the profession of nursing, I did a quick search to see what other articles or information I could find on being called to nursing.

A Definition of “Calling”

In an article published in the Journal of Nursing Administration (JONA), Raatikainen describes a calling as “a deep internal desire to choose a task or profession which a person experiences as valuable and considers her own”. The author goes on to share additional definitions and descriptions of the term calling and outlines the tasks, abilities, and outcomes of being called.

This project did have some limitations such as a small sample size, an instrument that did not go through the validation process, and the potential bias from study participants.

Can we really assume that nurses who experience the calling have better knowledge of their patients and were more suited to make a care plan? Interesting project and certainly one that can be followed up on with more research.

I Don’t Get It… A Calling? 

Another, less scholarly, post popped to the top of my search on nursing and calling. This post on came from a nursing student who sat in a new nursing school program, surrounded by fellow classmates who stated they were called to nursing.

This nursing student questioned what the term “calling” meant and wondered if it was a phrase that people used when they were unsure how to describe how they got into nursing. She specifically asked the readers, “Are other professions called into their profession? I’ve never heard that term before for other professions.”

Now, from my personal experience, and the question asked above on my own social media channels… I can tell you I HAVE heard this. That the nurse cannot really put their finger on it… can not exactly pinpoint what it means. But that it is a feeling. A sense that they have. A trust, or “just knowing” almost.

Very interesting to me… an uncalled nurse.

Give to Patients. Answer the Call.

Another piece I found on the world wide web was this letter from a nursing CEO to the new graduates entering the nursing profession.

Kim Bassett, MSN/MBA, RN of Steward Norwood Hospital specifically wrote to new nurses “Nursing is a calling, not a job. Trust me when I say there are many easier ways to earn a living. In order to truly honor this calling, you must give of yourself to your patients and their families.”

While I admire this nurses encouragement, support, and enthusiasm for inspiring new grad nurses… this is quite daunting. And almost sets us up to be unhealthy in our nursing careers. If we give of our ourselves entirely to our patients, then what is left to give to ourselves?

I think we must be careful on how far we go with being called to nursing.

It is A Career, NOT A Calling.

While I am sure that there are many others out there, we do not have space on this blog to cover every single article on the profession of nursing and being called to becoming a nurse. I would like to share one final perspective here before wrapping up…

The fact that the calling of nursing is complete nonsense. And maybe even bad for nursing as a whole.

This blogger, a nurse who wrote on the site Florence is Dead anonymously for some time, shared an article outlining the fact that to answer a calling into the nursing profession actually hurts us more than helps us. She describes nursing as a profession, not a sacrifice.

To quote this blogger, she writes: “I’m not a nurse out of the goodness of my heart. I’m a nurse because I chose a career doing what I love: taking care of others. I didn’t become a nurse accidentally. It wasn’t involuntary. We are educated. I didn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for a ‘calling’.  I expect to be reimbursed for my skill.”

I must say. As someone who believes in, embodies, teaches, and writes about nurses taking care of themselves, empowering themselves, being authentic in nursing, and loving work AND life as separate entities… this anonymous nurse has a point!

Final Thoughts on Calling or Career

I can tell you this. I was not “called” into nursing.

That’s right. I chose to do it because, well at the time I was young and a few people thought it would be a good idea. Since I did not have an alternative plan, I figured, why not? I go into full detail about this in my book, Nursing from Within (if you would like to find out more).

And am I a bad nurse because I was not called? I do not think so.

In fact, on my podcast, I ask this question of every guest. And it is always interesting for me to hear the stories of how nurses entered the profession of nursing. And even though there are some that say they are called and others who do not… you know what we all agree upon as nurses?

It opens doors. Nursing invites relationship and trust. To have a career as a nurse, you can always do something different. You can use your unique skills and gifts. The profession of nursing is a beautiful stepping stone to anything you want to do in life!

Nursing from Within™

This is what Nursing from Within™ is all about. Figuring out what you love about being a nurse. Knowing your skills, strengths, and unique assets. Tapping into them in the work that you do. Love being a nurse and the profession of nursing…

No matter how you got here.

Let’s hear from you! Would you become a nurse, if you had to do it all over again? Why or why not? And what are your thoughts on nursing as a calling? Share below and let’s discuss the beauty of the nursing profession!

p1050390About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.







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Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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