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“We Are All One Nurse”…How Nightingale’s Vision Can Transform Every Educators Sense of Mission

By March 5, 2015June 7th, 2023No Comments

In preparation for my trip to Leogane, Haiti (March 6-12) where I will be teaching for three days at Faculty of Nursing Science-Episcopal University of Haiti (FSIL), the only baccalaureate program in Haiti, I let those on my email list know that basic school supplies such as pens, pencils, and paper would be a simple way that they could partner and bless each of the 130 students.

I want to thank the many that responded to this simple request! I received hundreds of dollars in cash donations to provide needed supplies as well as boxes of student supplies from faculty and departments all around the country that I will personally deliver shortly.


Partners in Ministry

It truly is a partnership as we work together to serve others. I have been blessed and encouraged, but more importantly I know that these students will also be touched by this demonstration of kindness where life in Haiti is hard and difficult.

When nurse educators and nurses in practice pour themselves out to make a difference in your classrooms, clinical settings or other countries we live out the essence of the words of Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This is also the essence of what it means to care for others.

“We Are All One Nurse”

One nursing program in Massachusetts did a student supply drive and collected two large boxes with needed supplies. The note that I received in one of the boxes said the following:

“Please accept the enclosed for your trip to Haiti. The faculty and students of our practical nursing program cleaned out their drawers and some bought new items to help out OUR COLLEAGUES at the Episcopal University of Haiti.” (emphasis mine)

What impressed me by this note was the recognition that despite the numerous  differences between nursing in the United States and Haiti, as nurses who are committed to caring for others, we are colleagues and in essence are one in spirit.

This same attitude was also evident in Florence Nightingale and her vision of nursing that she wanted each of her students to exhibit over 130 years ago when she stated the following at the commencement of probationer nurses at St. Thomas Hospital in 1883:

” Let us run the race where all may win: rejoicing in their successes, as our own, and mourning their failures, wherever they are, as our own.
We are all ONE NURSE” (emphasis mine-Attewell, 2012).

Living Out a Vision of “One Nurse”

I want to encourage every student and educator to recognize the implications of living this vision out in all that we do. If we have a vision to see ourselves as “one nurse” would incivility and bullying behaviors flourish in academia and in practice settings?

No, because we are “one nurse” and the pain of incivility that is being directed at others, also hurts and wounds myself. Therefore, this vision will motivate one to take a stand for the absent colleague who is being gossiped about and remain passive or indifferent no more.

If we see ourselves as “one nurse,” the struggles of health care inequities in the developing world compel us to do what is needed to help meet the struggles that nurses face that can ultimately influence whether a person lives or dies.

My Story

Since the big earthquake in January, 2010 that leveled the capital city of Port au Prince and killed tens of thousands and injured so many more, I have felt the pull to get out of my comfort zone and use the talents that I have been given as a nurse educator with critical care and emergency background to meet and do what I could to make a difference.

I have been to Haiti three times since the earthquake to help provide community health care in tent cities and surrounding communities. I have seen firsthand that long term solutions to the health care inequities in the developing world including Haiti will not be met by well intentioned Americans coming over for a week or two to provide medical clinics.

Instead, the harder path, but one that will lead to lasting change over time is to support and strengthen the infrastructure of nursing and nursing education to see well trained nurses and advanced practice nurses assume leadership and responsibility to meet the health care needs of their communities. The role that is needed is to be a literal “guide on the side” to partner, strengthen, and support these organizations with your treasure or talents.

In Closing

I write this not to promote myself in any way or to set myself as an example of what other educators could or should do, but I want to encourage you to see that regardless of whether you leave the country to serve or stay right where you are, each of us can and will make a difference if we serve with the right heart and motivation!

Please keep myself as well as Tim Bristol (Nurse Tim) who will be there most of this month in your thoughts and prayers.

Comment Question:
How have you responded to the vision to see yourself as “one nurse” and how has it impacted the way you live and practice nursing?
Comment below and let the conversation begin!


Attewell, A. (2012) Illuminating Florence: Finding nightingale’s legacy in your practice. Sigma Theta Tau: Indianapolis, IN.

Keith Rischer – Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CEN

As a nurse with over 35 years of experience who remained in practice as an educator, I’ve witnessed the gap between how nursing is taught and how it is practiced, and I decided to do something about it! Read more…

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