I worked at four universities that had nursing programs and invariably we saw a handful of prospective students who quickly discovered a mismatch between their image of the profession and the reality. Students would plan to major in nursing because they wanted to “help people” and while that is certainly true, what’s less obvious is that they also had to succeed in one of the most rigorous science curriculums on campus. Nursing is about far more than “being nice” and includes courses in pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, statistics and diagnostics – just to earn a degree, never mind the extensive clinical hours and state licensing test. Oh yes, and there is blood involved – something that seemed to surprise someone every year!

I think about all this today, on National Nurses Day, and while those in the profession are on the frontlines of the battle against COVID. I wonder how often are they taken for granted or seen as not as important as a doctor when in practice their roles are just as vital. I am reminded of the line Temple Grandin’s mother oft-repeated about her autistic daughter: “She’s different, not less.”

So, in addition to celebrating any nurse you know, keep the “different, not less” mantra in mind when interfacing with others who are not viewed as high in organizational prestige. The receptionist may not be the manager, but she has likely mastered a dazzling amount of information to have at her fingertips in order to do her job well. The mid-level supervisor may not have the glitz of a CEO but is responsible for much of the organization’s productivity. The public works staff may toil behind-the-scenes but their mastery of mechanics and chemicals makes it possible for a city’s infrastructure to function.

Make it your practice to honor others for their contributions, in whatever form they take.


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