Skip to main content
Art of NursingArticles

Make a Difference

By May 11, 2017June 8th, 2023No Comments

Nursing students across the country are graduating this month and are about to begin an incredible adventure that will cause them to be stressed and stretched in ways they never thought possible.

If I had the chance to sit down with any new graduate nurse and share my reflections of 34 years in practice and what I have learned in my journey as a caregiver, this is what I would say…

How a Nurse Makes a Difference

As a nurse you will be in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of your patients and their families. You will have access to patients and their families in the best of times and the worst of times.

Times of joy and celebration with the delivery of a new life into the world, and times of sorrow as families say goodbye to a loved one who is dying.

As I reflect on my journey in nursing over the past three decades, the desire to make a difference has been the unifying thread of my story.

May you, too, embrace the responsibility to make a difference in your attitude and the value you place on being a professional nurse.

Though serving as a nurse is challenging, difficult, and at times thankless, because you are caring for human life of infinite value and worth, you will leave your mark on the hearts and lives of those you serve.

Florence Nightingale poured herself out in her calling and realized her personal vision of a life well lived who said the following:

“One whose life makes a great difference for all: All are better off than if she had not lived.”

Nightingale lived out this vision and mission, and transformed the nursing profession as a result. Every nurse needs to develop a mission and vision for their practice (see prior blog on developing a personal mission statement).


I want to encourage you to have this same sense of vision and purpose as you begin your career as a nurse.

Reflect and answer the following questions to stay grounded and go the distance in your nursing career:

  1. How do you want to make a difference as a nurse?
  2. What “bigger picture” vision or purpose would you like to see realized through your career as a nurse?
  3. What would it look like for you to look back and reflect on your years of service as a nurse and be able to say, “Well done?”

Leaving a Legacy

Nightingale had no idea that she would transform the nursing profession by caring for the sick as she began her nurse training, but she did. In the same way, health care today is ever changing and visionary leadership is needed to transform our profession as well as nursing education.

Will you be willing as a new nurse to embrace not only the responsibility of being a caregiver and pursue nursing with a passion, but use your unique abilities to make lasting contributions to the profession?

Like Florence, you, too, are unique and have God-given talents that you have a responsibility to steward.

Will you take the hard, but narrow, path to use what you have been given to serve others and make a difference by pursuing excellence in all that you do as a nurse, or will you take the broader path that many pursue by doing only what is needed and be content to be average in practice.

Don’t Waste Your Life

You have one chance at this life. It is imperative not to waste it. May the lives of Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, and other unsung caregivers who sacrificially served and cared for others inspire you to pour yourself out for broken humanity here and in other countries of the world where the need is so great.

It is not what you DO as a nurse that makes a difference, but HOW and WHY you do what you do that will impact your patients and family long after they leave the care setting.

Isabel Hampton Robb (1900), an influential American nurse educator (founder of the ANA, AJN, and what would later become the NLN), recognized not only the value, but the eternal significance of caring for others.

“The spirit in which she does her work makes all the difference. Invested as she should with the dignity of her profession and the cloak of love for suffering humanity, she can ennoble anything her hand may be called upon to do, and for work done in this spirit there will ever come to her a recompense far outweighing that of silver and gold.”

May her timeless vision and perspective of caregiving inspire and influence you to embrace this same ethic in your practice in all that you do.


  • Hampton Robb, E. (1900). Nursing ethics. Cleveland, OH: E.C. Koeckert.

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…

The Ultimate Solution to Develop Clinical Judgment Skills

KeithRN’s Think Like a Nurse Membership

Access exclusive active learning resources for faculty and students, including KeithRN Case Studies, making it your go-to resource.

Sign up to receive a free KeithRN NextGen Case Study!

Develop clinical judgment skills with this innovative new case study on asthma to prepare your students for NextGen NCLEX and practice!