It's actually pretty simple: we do what nobody else is willing to do. We do what nobody else *can* do, really; the weak ones get left behind and the stupid ones mostly wash out early on in their careers. Being a nurse is challenging, mentally and emotionally. It requires that you understand every system of the body in a way that specialists often don't, and recognize how all those systems interact. It necessitates the ability to reach the person inside the patient.
Sometimes you're the nurse. Sometimes you do nothing but run numbers and replete fluids. Sometimes you're also the lactation consultant, the woman who reassures the teenager that *everybody* gets her period on the day of admission, the person who, though thirty years younger than the patient, tells that patient without blushing or stammering that yes, sex is possible even after neck surgery. You're the person who flies through awful freezing rain in a helicopter, keeping your patient calm, even though you don't know if you're going to be landing in a controlled fashion. You're the person who not only knows the various ways to save somebody else's life, but also how to comfort those left behind.
It's been a tough week for me, personally and professionally. The combination of work-related and personal-life events have left me with nightmares, anxiety coiled like a serpent in the pit of my stomach, and no appetite for anything but beer. I've rerun things I've done over and over, wondering if something different I could've done would've made a difference in outcomes.
Yet, with all of that, I can say honestly that nursing is the one part of my life that I have not fucked up. That dedication to honesty, a clear ethical standard, a measurable good outcome, is what keeps me punching in in the face of Manglement's initiatives and my own personal doubts.
I would not do anything else. It's the last, biggest dirty secret of nursing: I love my job, like we all do, and I cannot imagine saying "I'm a nurse" with anything but a quiet swelling of pride.