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Posted 11 months ago
Remember those old nurse’s caps of bygone days? If you’re too young to have experienced “the look”, let me just tell you, they represented all about real nurses back then along with the white uniforms and white nurse’s shoes. Nurse’s caps said “RN” and no one doubted your position and authority to practice nursing. But like I said, those caps were from long ago and if per chance, you ever see a nurse sporting one these days, she is looked at with humor, not to mention, a little suspicion.
As a 14 year-old candy striper longing to be a real nurse one day, I remember observing the many styles of nurse’s caps in the hospital where I volunteered. I would critique the caps with their different flairs, ribbons and shapes. I judged the caps in my mind and even decided which nursing school I might want to attend based on the “cuteness” of its cap. I actually asked one nurse where she went to school because I loved her cap. She fell right into my compliment and told me she didn’t blame me for wanting one just like it since she loved it too!
Well, to put it mildly, I was a naïve little teenager who didn’t quite “get it.” I mistakenly thought it was the nurse’s cap that made the nurse. I thought that if you wore that iconic emblem of nursing, you were a step above the gods and could do no wrong. I thought that a woman with a nurse’s cap was about as high as a woman could go in life. Remember, I was 14 and I had a dream!
Eventually, I learned that the cap, that infamous hallowed cap, did not make the nurse. It was what was under the cap that made the nurse. It was the nurse who truly cared and became a patient advocate who was the real nurse. The cap was not the determining factor as to the type of nurse she represented. It was only a piece of starched fabric.
Oh, it was a status symbol to be sure. It represented some pride and achievement. It was flattering and looked cute sitting upon a head of curls. But those were not (and are not) the important traits of a nurse. The heart of the nurse is what it’s all about. The cap was just that- a cap and an adornment.
With that said, I was slightly (okay, greatly) disappointed when the time came for my own nursing graduation only to be reminded that nurses caps were passé’. I longed for the chance to wear a cap. Fortunately, my graduating class voted to wear a cap for our class picture. We all marched to the bookstore on campus where we were told we could purchase a cap for two dollars and fifty cents. It seemed irreverent to “buy” one and not to have it ceremoniously placed upon our heads by faculty like in the old days. It seemed so wrong.
After some serious searching, the bookstore manager was able to find the beloved caps. They hadn’t been seen in years. We gratefully bought the caps, unfolded them from their dusty plastic bags and held them as though they were grand prizes. We were silent, almost reverent as we beheld them. Slowly we placed them on our own heads and admired ourselves in the reflection of the bookstore window.
Our group picture was eventually taken; 64 graduating nurses with white nurse’s caps (worth two dollars and fifty cents) smiled for the camera knowing full well, we were real nurses with or without the caps. And we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was what lay under our caps and in our hearts that signified all things good about nurses.