Yesterday, I was having a tough time with several aspects I am seeing over and over again in hospitals. However, in spite of staffing issues and strained working conditions, there is a reason nurses are the most trusted profession (people) in the United States – and yes, more so than fire fighters!
From the perspective of Buddhism, there might not be a better profession to be in. In Buddhism we talk about right livelihood – which profession could I be in that causes the least amount of harm to people (and brings them the most benefit)? We have to be very skillful when looking at what causes harm – does nursing produce a lot of pollution? Does it cause a lot of trees to be cut down? Are there occasional mistakes that do cause harm? Yes, maybe (although electronic medical records has greatly reduced paper waste) and yes.
One thing I definitely appreciate about nursing is that almost every decision we make is based upon weighing the benefits versus the risks. Therefore we are constantly thinking about benefiting patients (while causing the least amount of harm).
And another benefit to nursing, which might sound strange, is seeing all the suffering in our patients. People, for the most part (at least in the United States), are ignorant of what causes diseases to progress. They are ignorant of how to take care of their bodies. They are often ignorant of what it means to eat a healthy diet. And this ignorance takes its toll when degenerative diseases, or the diseases of aging, show up. A lot of diseases can be prevents – kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2, etc etc. But by the time a patient is seeing me, they often have more than one or two of these difficult syndromes. And I am just a nursing student.
Also in Buddhism (are you detecting a theme yet?), we are taught to contemplate the preciousness of being in a healthy, functioning human rebirth (body). If we can walk and talk and hear and see, then we can possibly do prostrations, chant mantras and prayers, hear teachings and read the Dharma scriptures and texts. If any one of these sense faculties is missing, then we are no longer considered to be in possession of all 18 leisures and endowments. Which is why it is so important to protect our bodies from harm – even from slow decades long harm which is very insidious.
Now I’m not advocating strict asceticism. If we are able to, we should enjoy a dessert from time to time. We should enjoy a glass of wine (if appropriate) from time to time. But just be aware of factors which increase diseases significantly – like smoking cigarettes. And it is smart to get a regular, annual physical – hypertension (high blood pressure) is known as the “silent killer” for a reason! By the time you notice the symptoms, irreversible damage has already been done. 😦
So if I don’t get anything else out of nursing except a good education about how the body works and stays in homeostasis AND seeing suffering and realizing how fortunate I am to be able to put the Dharma teachings into practice, then that is fine! That may be all I need. Maybe I can even be of benefit to others.
Thank you for reading and may all beings be able to practice right livelihood!