Training The Will

There is no better opportunity for will-training than the hospital

affords the nurse. The constant necessity of acting against desire, of

doing tasks which in themselves cannot be agreeable, calls for a

developed will, while it gives it constant exercise. Moods of

discouragement and depression cannot be indulged. The nurse must do her

work no matter how tired or blue or "frazzled" she feels, if she is not

too sick to b
on duty; for all time lost, she knows, is to be made up

to the hospital before training is completed.

Can this will to do, despite strong desire to the contrary, this mood

control and the ability to disregard physical discomfort, be acquired;

and if so, how?

It is a law of the mind and of the body that any task becomes easier by

repetition. We found that automatic habit eases much of the strain of

action. What seemed repulsive service to the probationer on her first

day in the hospital, she forced herself to do because she wanted to be a

nurse. She may go on through her three years unreconciled to these

particular duties, yet holding herself to them because she likes other

features of her work, or because she must earn her living and this seems

the best avenue open to her, or because her will to become a nurse is

strong enough to make her act continually against desire. And finally,

for almost every nurse, the interest in the end to be attained

overshadows the unpleasant incidents in its way. The tasks are actually

easier by their constant repetition, and her feeling of repugnance

becomes only a mild dislike. She has strengthened her will by continuing

to act against desire. But there is a better way to the same goal.

The woman who has thought out the reasons for and against taking

training; who has considered it carefully as a profession, and has

chosen to put up with any obstacles in the way of becoming a graduate

nurse, can find a happy adjustment to the disagreeable incidents it

involves. Realizing that the paths of learning are seldom thoroughly

smooth, she can resolve to use their very roughness for firmer

footholds, as a means to self-control, as a fitting for the sterner

hardships of self-support, of nursing the dangerously ill, alone, of

meeting suffering and death in her patients with quiet courage and

faith. In other words, she can meet the thousand and one personal

services which in themselves might be disagreeable and prove pure

drudgery, not merely with the stern will to do them because they are a

necessary part of obtaining a desired end, but also for the sake of

adding to the comfort and well-being of each patient in her care. The

emotion of interest and kindly desire will ease the strain which will

undergoes in demanding that she not shirk the disagreeable. For there is

little stress in doing what we wish to do.

It is psychologically possible to find genuine pleasure in the meanest

tasks if the doing is backed up by a strong desire to make life count as

much for others as possible. The nurse who comes to realize the waste

involved in carrying out against desire what reason proposes and

volition dictates, will try to secure the co-operation of desire, and

save will-force for more worthy accomplishment.

A constant opportunity for will-strengthening comes to many a nurse

during the early weeks and months of training in the necessity of going

on despite the sheer tiredness, the weary backs and swollen, tender,

aching feet. The one who means to "see it through" disregards them as

far as possible on duty, gets all the out-of-doors her time permits,

takes special exercises to strengthen weak spots, and relaxes her body

while she reads or studies or visits in her off-duty time. In the end,

not only does her body adjust itself to the new work, but her will has

become a better ally for the next demands upon it; her endurance is

remarkably increased.

When she can accept hardship, drudgery, weariness of mind and body and

perhaps of soul, the nagging of unco-operative patients, and the demands

on her sympathies of the suffering; when she can meet these as

challenges to develop a strong will--a will not only to endure, but to

find happiness and give service through it all--then the nurse has

learned the art of making every circumstance a stepping-stone to mastery

and achievement.