To put it bluntly, I take issue with the fundamental concept of nursing as “caring” for several reasons:
(1) Ethically, nurses are no more obligated to care than anyone else. We are to love others as ourselves, which extends to all spheres of human existence: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This holistic “caring” is not imposed upon nurses any greater than others, so the nursing profession is unable to legitimately lay claim to “caring” as unique to nursing. I do believe, though, that the ethic of love and caring underlies our profession, as it ideally should for all people. But it does not define it.
(2) Adoption of a universal ethic (“caring”) as a specific conceptual description of a profession does not clarify the profession of nursing, it only obscures it.
(3) Ironically, the nursing profession suffers at its own hand through its confusion of ethic and professional action. “Caring” is not the profession – rather, caring is the foundational ethic.
(4) Case in point: “Caring” in no way implies the mangled extremity (and mangled psyche) will be skillfully treated. Am I being oversimplistic? Maybe. Irrelevant? No.
So what now? I think conceptual revision is in order. Nursing philosophy needs to be reworked as a matter of first priority for it is what guides the definition of nursing. A clarification beyond “caring” is desperately needed, one that iterates the specifics of our profession while concurrently delineating it from all other professions.
Postmodern western culture, search for global relevancy, and conceptual overhaul…is it necessary? Is it possible? Definitely a daunting task…but I’m pursuing it because…..I care.
(Photo from Iraq war injury photo essay published in the New England Journal of Medicine, December 2004).