History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

A Sense of Values Johns, Ethel [1930-06]

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It is a pleasant custom in Central Europe to offer to the guests
assembled for a banquet a table of hors dfoeuvres.  They please
the eye and prick the palate*  They prepare for the good things
to come*  Here Is a salted herring, here an olive, a fat pink
* prawn or a sharply acid gherkin*  You wander up and down wondering which to choose and usually end by eating far too many although
everything is designed to stimulate appetite without cloying it - to
give a sense of values for the feast that Is to come*
In just such a manner I come before you tonight, balancing my little
tray, offering you nothing much by way of sustenance, but hoping that
what is said now by way of introduction may play Its humble part in
sharpening our sense of values*  Becuase we are going to need one*
Canadian nurses and nursing are not surveyed every day*  Dr* Weir
is going to give you something to ponder over for the next few months.
Something that will require critical study, weighing, measuring, balancing - in a word - a  sense of values - and the courage and will to
exercise It*
Let me try to Illustrate just what I mean*  A survey, no matter
what its particular technique, does certain things*  It attempts to
give a true and unprejudiced picture of existing conditions, it explains the underlying causes of these conditions and, by implication
at least, suggests a course of action*  The greatest compliment then
that can be paid to any survey is not to swallow it whole but to study
it critically - to analyse, to weigh, to measure it*  If we are to
take it seriously, and that is how we should take it, we shall need
a balance and a measuring rod, a sense of values by which to interpret
 its findings before we can safely translate those findings In terms
of action*
For no survey is an end in itself*  Unless its recommendations are
in some measure carried out in practice it cannot be said to have fulfilled its purpose*  Any action which may affect not only nurses but
the people whom they serve can only safely be undertaken with a clear
understanding of the relative values inherent in the situation*
What values?  Let us name a few of them*  Let us even be bold and
begin with economic values*  Values in terms of money*
In the past we nurses have been a bit^ealy mouthed and snobbish when
it came to talking frankly about the financial aspect of nursing*
We, like the hospitals, like the doctors, have been unwilling to face
the demands of a changing social order which Insists, and not against
reason, that every public service, whether professional in its ehar-
acter or not, must be based on sound economic principles*
And what are these principles?  Briefly these: - for the nurses the
right to such working conditions as will ensure steady employment,
reasonably good living standards, and suitable provision for sickness and old age*  For the public the right to skilled nursing care
at a reasonable cost*
We shall do well to listen to what the public has to say about the
high cost of sickness*  They have reason as the French would say*
Read the articles in current magazines written by lay men and lay
women*  They have a sense of values too*  There even seems to be
a general impression that we nurses are being weighed in the balance
and found wanting*
 There are those who will say that the interests of the nurse and of
the public are mutually antagonistic•  Perhaps they would be less so,
if we really faced the economic situation, and admitted to ourselves,
and to the public, that the present method of meeting the cost of
sickness needs revision and needs it badly*  If that revision calls
for the abandonment of some of otir cherished individualistic notions
it does not necessarily follow that our professional standards are
threatened*  This business of doing a good dayfs work for a decent
wage is like the salted herring on my tray*  An honest homely fish
and nothing to be ashamed of*  I commend him to your favorable notice.
Now let us turn to professional values*  I belong to a generation
which has striven very hard to attain professional standards in education for nurses*  We believed, some of us, that the road to that
attainment lay through the universities*  In spite of some discouraging experiencesDboth In this country and in Europe^I still
believe it does, though I am not at all sure that we trail blazers
were altogether on the right track.  However, nursing now has a measure at least, of university recognition, but perhaps our sense of
educational values is a little keener than our sense of values in
nursing practice*
You know the English nurses are a bit concerned about the Canadians*
They say that as a result of certain subtle influences - especially
noticeable when the wind blows from south of the 49th. parellel, that
Canadian nurses are losing their sense of real values, that we overemphasize certain educational and professional standards and are willing to sacrifice our birthright for a mess of scientific pottage*
That is as may be*  I hand it to you as the sharply acid little
gherkin on my tray*  You are not bound to accept it*
 If my gherkin tastes a bit sour here is the rosy Sink prawn nicely
set off by its green lettuce leaf - like a little bouquet - of praise
perhaps*  Canadian nurses have been much praised.  Real praise, not
flattery*  It used to warm my heart overseas to hear returning European visitors say: tfThe Canadians are the best of all"*  American
nurses who went to the International at Montreal last year said: rrThe
Canadians are magnificent11 *  And so they are*  But wasnft there a
King who died of a surfeit of prawns - or perhaps it was lampreys*
In any event just to ward off Indigestion, we ought to listen to a
wise Canadian nurse, Eunice Dyke of Toronto, who said to an admiring
foreign visitor: "Perhaps we have been praised more than is good for
Let us make one good resolution.  Let us give our most careful study
to those findings in the survey with which we find ourselves most in
disagreement*  A very natural reaction to any statement of fact that
does not please us is to challenge its accuracy*
The response to the nursing survey now being conducted in the United
States illustrates my point*  Hospital authorities there say of the
report of the Grading Committee: "A very fin# report - except of
course its findings with respect to over production of nurses by the
hospitals and consequent unemployment"*  "Quite wrong there of course"*
Private duty nurses on the other hand say that the part about the sins
of the hospitals is splendid but that the section dealing with private
duty is not so well done.  And so on all down the line*
Slowly, whether we like it or not but very surely, the conviction is
being borne in upon nurses in many lands that the professional group
in any given country must concern itself more actively than in the past
 with regard to the quality of nursing work and practice as distinct
from education*  Perhaps our sense of values is not quite as sensitive as it should be with respect to the kind of work nurses are doing
once they cease being "educated" and begin to practice*  Yet, as a
profession we must stand or fall according to the sort of work we do
and not according to the educational ideals we pursue*
Let us be alert and open minded to what the survey has to say concerning our work and our manners after we escape from the wholesome
restraint of the training school.  If It appears necessary to devize
ways and means of dieiplining ourselves in order to check certain
abuses which may have crept In - well - courage is a nursing virtue*
Discipline is a good word If a hard one*  Like the olive on my little
tray, it has a clean taste - though perhaps an acquired one.
At the risk of being thought sentimental I should like to refer, in
closing, to our need of a sense of human values.  Whether the English
are right about us or not we, in Canada, cannot ignore human values
even if we would.  We tend the flame of life at its beginning, in
Its full blaze, as it wafers, as it dies out forever.  It is not a
common task that we do and it cannot be measured entirely by inflexible scientific or professional standards.  Something more subtle is
needed: A Sense of Values.


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