I was thinking about some things the other day and my line of thought turned to altruism. I remember when I had to look it up. I was beginning my pre-requisites for RN and was in Sociology class. The instructor asked all of us to introduce ourselves by stating our name and our major. On my turn I stated my name and Nursing. She asked, "Why did you decide to go into nursing?" I felt she was making reference to my gender or possibly my size (I am actually a very big guy). "To save lives," I said. She responded by saying, "Ah we have an altruist."
I did not know the word. The definition is unselfish concern for the welfare of others. When I looked it up I was not sure if she was making fun of me. Did she believe I was an altruist? I decided that to some extent I was and began to like the word. I never asked although the tone in which she said it was sort of smirking. I didn’t care. I was going to be an altruist. I was going into nursing in an unselfish way with a concern for the welfare of others.
My first experience related to nursing was as a personal aid to a quadriplegic young man. It was not altruism that got me into this situation but of course a girl. I was seventeen and the girl I was dating asked me one day if I could help her with her brother. I had never met her family we had only been dating a few days and actually been on only one date. I was curious and asked what kind of help she needed. She explained that her brother was a quadriplegic and his aid did not show up. If I would just come to the house and help her get him into his wheelchair it would mean a lot to her. Of course I wanted to mean a lot to her so naturally I was going to do it. I had never met anybody that was crippled and was a little scared. I asked her on the way what happened and found out that he had been in a swimming accident and broken his neck. We arrived and she asked me to wait in the living room for a few minutes. Then she came and got me to assist. I asked what we needed to do and she said put him in his wheelchair. I picked him up and set him in his wheelchair. He was only two years younger than his sister was and three years younger than I was. I started talking to him and we became friends. I actually took the job the guy had not shown up for. I worked for him for 5 years. I never really thought about being unselfish. I was getting paid so it was not really unselfish on my part.
He later had his older brother move in with him after he turned 19 and they lived together and I was sort of out of a job. I kicked around for about eight years doing different things. When I was thirty years old my father had a long talk with me. He was very serious and basically made me understand that the way I was living was not good for the long term and I needed something that lasts forever. The only thing I had ever done that I thought had good permanent long-term possibilities was taking care of the person I mentioned. I started looking into becoming a nurse’s aid. My father again jumped in and advised me to go right into nursing school he offered to help and the rest as they say is history.
I know by now you are thinking what has this got to do with altruism? I really have been to some extent altruistic about my profession. When people ask me what I do? I explain that I take care of people. I try my best to make people feel better. I educate them about what is happening, what is going to happen and what other options there are to these things. I try to alleviate stress and tension by keeping a lite mood and using comedy and caring. I am unselfish in giving myself and my time and attention to the patients in my care. Altruism at its best if you ask me.