The Disney Pixar movie, The Incredibles (Bird, 2004) is a wild, thrill seeking animation movie which features a uniquely gifted family of super-heroes who find themselves in multiple crises and have to creatively use individual strengths to “save” each other from sure death, and on multiple occasions. Crisis after crisis, the beleaguered family carries on, barely getting out of one life or death situation and then another one erupts. The viewer is left exhausted, riding the rails with the movie characters, wondering how the family is going to survive this next round of disaster. Hmmmm …. does this sound familiar to anyone out there working on the front lines of healthcare? No doubt about it – nurses make a difference and somehow manage to “save the day” time after time. But, have you considered the factors involved in the “make a difference” quotient? Is our ability to make a difference due to the capacity and unique abilities of each individual Incredible Nurse to make a difference or the collective Nurse Incredible? In other words, is it the nursing collective which makes the difference, or the individual nurse? It is true that each and every nurse has the “incredible quotient” capacity to make a difference in the life of each and every one touched by a nurse. That capacity is due to the uniqueness of the education, training, and role of the nurse – and some believe - the incredible calling of the nurse. The key words are capacity and calling. The capacity is inherent as described. The calling might not be. What is a calling to nursing? This is not talked about as much in more recent times.
A calling to a profession might be considered “passion plus” – a passion for a line of work based in a belief that one can make a significant difference to benefit others. Indeed.com (2023) discusses the difference between a job, a career, and a calling, and connects the calling to a strong pull toward a particular vocation which is often associated with emotional fulfillment. A study by Raatikainen (1997) examined the significance of a calling to outcomes of professional nurse attitudes and actions. The study indicated a positive difference if the nurse reported a calling. Most people would agree that a single nurse can make a positive difference, whether they reported feeling called to that profession or not. However, it is likely that a sense of calling strengthens the commitment and persistence to the profession in the face of difficulties.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (New International Version, Ecclesiastes 4:12). In the movie, The Incredibles (Bird, 2004), it was not only the individual strength of each family member which saved the day, but the collective strength, how the family rallied past divergent interests to find new ways to survive – together. There is strength in numbers. There is also the view – Gestalt Psychology - that the whole of individual parts is greater than those individual parts separately (Cherry, 2022). Applied to the topic of this blog, there is a perspective that the strength and “contribution of the many” who work together as a “whole” is greater strength and capacity to make a difference than each individual nurse working alone.
Can you envision a nursing profession where nurses work together in such a way as to create a “whole” greater than the sum of it’s individual parts (Cherry, 2022)? Can you envision now a nursing profession comprised of this “whole” which is also rooted in a calling to the profession – for the greater good? Can you also envision a called “whole” - comprised of a caring nursing force – a called, caring, capable nursing “whole”? I can – and I’m waiting for the day. Together we are stronger, caring we are stronger, called we are stronger – “a three-fold strand is not quickly broken” (The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Bird, B. (2004). The Incredibles [film]. Disney Pixar.
Cherry, K. (2022). What is Gestalt psychology? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-gestalt-psychology-2795808
Indeed.com (2023). Differences between a job, calling and career. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/job-vs-calling-vs-career
The Holy Bible. (n.d.). Ecclesiastes 4:12. https://biblehub.com/ecclesiastes/4-12.htm
Raatikainen, R. (1997). Nursing care as a calling. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 25(6), 1111-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.19970251111.x.