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The Nurse Of The Future

The student of life and of the sciences which deal with the origin and
development of the human race, and with the relations of man to man and
nation to nation--such sciences as biology and anthropology, sociology
and ethics and history--comes to the conclusion that life exists for the
development of mind. And mind is not merely intellect, but the only
gateway we know to character, to soul. The deepest students of human
science see no reason for life except as it "evolves" a perfect
mind--man's goal, his ideal. And this visioned perfect mind is one
which adjusts itself without friction to the body, making it fulfil the
laws of health that it may help and not hinder mind's progress; one
which adjusts itself to people and things, co-operating with other minds
to develop manners and customs and laws of the most satisfactory
community living; one which forces things to be servants of its will;
one which makes harmony of life by fulfilling the laws of the soul as
well as of the intellect and of the body.

If we believe that life exists for the development of mind into a force
of intellect and character and soul, then we need not ask why a nurse
should know something of the laws of mind. She does not ask why she
should know anatomy or pathology. Her work is dependent upon such
knowledge. But if the center of life, the thing which makes the body a
living, moving, acting agent instead of a clod, is mind; if the one
thing which makes a difference between animal life and mineral and
vegetable life is consciousness, i. e., mind; and if everything that
affects that body, its organ, affects mind also--then surely no nurse
can afford to learn only the rules of repair or of keeping in order the
instrument of consciousness, without knowing what effect her efforts
have on the mind itself. It is as though an ignorant maid accepted a
piano as merely a piece of furniture to be kept clean and shining, and
in her zeal to that end scrubbed the keyboard with soap and water which,
dripping down into the body of the instrument, swells and damages its
felts, rusts and corrodes its keys, and ruins its notes. When she knows
that she may thus make impossible the beautiful sounds she has heard it
give, and that the more carefully the keyboard is handled the more sure
is the beauty resulting, her care is to keep it as free as possible of
dust, to see that the top is down and the keyboard covered when she
sweeps--and to clean it hereafter in such a way as to never injure its

The nurse has a much greater function than merely to help in saving the
body and keeping its machinery in order. If the aim of life is the
strengthening and perfecting of the mind--that "urge" of life, then
surely the nurse's big aim will be to help establish such health of body
as leads toward health of mind. In the average man or woman this vital
urge becomes temporarily blocked by the very weakness of the body it
urges. The body must give the life-flame some fuel, or it dies out;
but with very little fuel it flickers on, waiting, hoping for the more
that it may burn strongly again. In the cases the nurse handles very
often the "vital spark" has been poorly fed by the disabled body, and so
discouragement or depression, or "loss of grip" results, or the flame
continues to shine brightly with whatever little sustenance it receives,
and so encourages the body to greater effort for it; or sinks into
embers, glowing steadily though dully; or it burns wildly,
recklessly--it becomes what we call "wild fire," that has no direction
and no purpose save to burn up everything it can find.

In other words, the nurse deals with those in whom the "urge" is
weakened--the depressed and discouraged; with those whose spirits never
flag in their steady shining--those brave souls we could almost worship;
and those others who hold grimly on with quiet grit and courage, but
with no cheer; and with the unstable ones of neuropathic or psychopathic
tendency who become hysteric or maniacal.

What will the nurse do for them all? Will not an understanding of how to
recall the ambition to live, the will to get well, and the grit to see
the thing through, be an incalculable asset.

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