W. Richard Cowling III, PhD, RN, APRN-BC, AHN-BC, FAAN
Vice President of Academic Affairs Chamberlain College of Nursing
As a bored 16-year-old one evening in 1964, I reluctantly agreed, after much prodding from my sister, to go to the local hospital to work as a volunteer. It was a cold December night during the holiday season break from school. I soon became a frequent visitor and volunteer, which eventually caught the eye of the hospital’s director of nursing, who offered me a paid position as a nursing assistant. This experience was the spark that ignited a joyous nursing career spanning more than four decades.
And it feels like I’m just getting started.
Much of what I learned in those early days as a volunteer and nursing assistant has shaped the way I think about nursing education and leadership. There is no other profession that requires the type of intimate relationship – the bond – that we form with those in our care. I developed a passion for the work that nurses do and their relationships to the patient and families.
This strong connection to the people we serve is what inspired me to look beyond my role as a clinician. I felt a natural connection to people because of nursing, and that easily translated to forming positive relationships with students and colleagues. In particular, the appeal of influencing the education for the next generation of nurses was more than intriguing; it felt like what I was meant to do. I felt that contributing to the education of nurses would fulfill the responsibility and accountability to society that has since shaped every choice in my career.
I know this appreciation of the critical nature of education isn’t unique to me. As nurses, we are positioned to be there for people in intimate and meaningful ways. No other professional group is positioned to influence the lives of people – infants, children, adults and the elderly – in quite the same way. The potential impact we as nurses can make on one life is astonishing. When you multiply this by the minutes, hours, days and years any one of us will be in nursing, the result is enormously profound.