When I began nursing school I was confident that I’d enjoy being a nurse because I already liked being a waitress. I imagine that you’re already groaning, but hear me out. I had traits that served me well when I put food and drinks on the table: I was smart and organized, I learned quickly, I was usually able to rescue disastrous situations, and I liked people and wanted to make them happy.

That last characteristic is a secret that most of us nurses keep to ourselves as we emphasize the more cerebral nursing traits—the critical thinking, the autonomy, the professional skills.

That’s the start of an essay called “Nurse, Where’s My Lunch?” by the accomplished nurse and writer Christine Contillo in the June issue of AJN. It’s about some of the human pleasures of being a nurse, the deep human encounters you remember many years later. Is there a temperament best suited for nursing? And how do you define competence? Is it all just a matter of mastering “cerebral” technical skills? Or is there more?

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