It’s the season for graduations. My husband and I recently celebrated our youngest daughter’s graduation from Saint Louis University School of Nursing—just as we did for our two older daughters.

mahon graduation
Suzanne and her daughter, Elaine, at her graduation from Saint Louis University School of Nursing

As I reflected on this time of celebration, I was reminded of when I was asked to write for Continuing the Legacy: More Voices of Oncology Nurses, an ONS book that shares the narrative history of oncology nursing through individual nurse stories. I wrote about a patient who taught me a lot during our time together. At the end of each story, the authors were asked to reflect on their contributions and their experiences. With all of the celebrations lately, I had to look back on what I wrote:

“I have three daughters. People often ask if I hope that one will become a nurse. Most of all, parents want their children to find a career that brings happiness and satisfaction. Is nursing such a career? Absolutely. The focus of nursing has shifted from a primarily hospital-based to an outpatient-based profession since I began 20 years ago. Nursing remains a challenging and satisfying career choice for both men and women.

“Nursing is a career filled with many options. Some nurses prefer patient care with many tasks, such as intensive care. Some like to work with persons who are chronically ill. Some prefer teaching, whereas others choose administration. The number of settings in which nurses work is varied: hospitals, clinics, homes, schools, and industries. The choice of hours is variable: nurses are needed 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. This vast need often affords individuals to choose work schedules that are compatible with family life.

“Nurses are smart individuals who have a broad education. They need to understand anatomy, physiology, technical equipment, medications, and human psychology. Nurses have the rare opportunity to support patients during stressful times, such as the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or death, and in happy times, including the completion of therapy or disease-free checkup. They know each patient and family. Nurses educate individuals so they can make the best possible choice and look forward with hope and back without regret. Nursing has been and remains a great career choice.” (page 126)

More than 15 years later, this passage still rings true. When I wrote this, I never could’ve guessed that all three of my daughters would choose nursing as a profession. At the time, my daughters were 14, 12, and 9 years old. I had no idea what their career aspirations would be—nor did they.

My oldest completed her first degree and became certified as a music therapist, but she chose to go back for a degree in nursing after working with nurses in multiple healthcare settings. She’s passionate about providing stellar care to older adults, and she holds a special place in the heart of her father, who’s a geriatrician himself.

Our middle daughter found her niche in neurosurgical nursing and is pursuing her doctorate. She’s also interested in public policy and lobbying for legislative change.

Our youngest, Elaine, is beginning her nursing career in pediatric oncology. I feel privileged that I found my rewarding career in the field of cancer prevention, detection, and genetics. I’m thrilled that each of my daughters is excited and passionate about their roles as nurses. They’ve found happiness and satisfaction with their career choices too.

The Growing Need for Nurses

From 2016 to 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that RN employment is projected to grow 15% because of an increased emphasis on health promotion and prevention, more individuals with chronic illnesses living longer, and the ever-growing U.S. population of older adults.

Those graduating from nursing school have many career possibilities. Nurses are needed to fill the public’s growing needs, and it’s important to emphasize that nursing is a career—not just a job.

The Opportunities Are Endless

When you’re confronted with the question, “Do you hope your child or someone you care about becomes a nurse?” I hope you can answer enthusiastically, “Yes.” I hope you’ve found the happiness and satisfaction in your nursing career. If you haven’t or feel like you need a change, realize that nursing offers so many possibilities across the spectrum of health care and public education. There’s still that position that’ll challenge and reward you.

My husband and I are thrilled that our daughters have chosen the nursing profession, because, as I said more than 15 years ago, “Nursing remains a challenging and satisfying career choice for both men and women.”