Got power? Give it away.

The other day my almost 3 year old daughter woke up in the morning and started calling out for me. On the monitor I could see she was standing in her crib, but I couldn’t get to her right away as I was busy with her baby brother.

For the first time ever, I spoke into the monitor and said “It’s okay if you want to get out of bed by yourself and come see me upstairs”. 

Until that day, she would have stayed in her crib for as long as it took me to get there. I knew she could safely climb out of her crib on her own, as I had seen her do it a handful of times. But she only ever climbed out when I was in the room. I’m fairly certain she believed she wasn’t allowed to do it on her own.

In that moment I realized that my job as a parent isn’t to teach her to always stay put and wait for instructions. Nor is it my job to teach her to always do what she’s told. That morning, I understood that my job as a parent is to let her be free – free to choose, to decide for herself and to teach her that she’s worthy of having power and rights.

While I’m dreading waking up in the middle of the night to my daughter standing beside my bed, I’m relieved to know that she’s learning to ask for what she needs and realize the power she has in life.

This moment reminded me of the work of nursing and the opportunity we have to redefine what we do. To make empowerment a greater part of our culture than it currently is.

We can all agree that as nurses part of our job is to take care of people, but that it’s not our job to take care of everyone, every day, all the time.

We’re brilliantly trained to do things for other people, but we often forget that our real job is to use the power we’ve got to empower others and let them be free. Free to feed themselves, even if it takes them longer to eat. Free to walk, even if it means they’re at higher risk for falling. Free to choose what to wear, even if we think it doesn’t match. Free to decide this or that, even if we disagree with their decision.

Our real job is to support people to do what they can to look after themselves, even if it’s inconvenient for us.

Our real job is to help people not need us.

I believe it’s true that how we treat people we care for is a greater predictor for how well people do in their lives than what we know about nursing.