Upon the foundation of IDENTITY, we learned that nurses build a sense of purpose from a theme called SERVICE.  From meeting with nurses we learned about the experiences that instill a sense of purpose, we heard “to help people” from every single nurse. The desire for connection to others that have a need is at the core of purpose for nurses.


The second unique key theme, underscoring the connection between individual purpose and people, is comprised of five defining elements:

  1. Altruismdefine purpose as seen through the eyes of others with whom they interact; an inherent concern for the well-being of others with a core purpose to make a difference in others’ lives; the inherent drive to contribute to society with the mentality that the sum of all is greater than the individual; another study (Ely, Bertello, Rogers-Clark) found two dominant altruistic themes amongst nurses: “opportunity for caring” and “my vocation in life”; our research confirmed that “empathetic connections” and “living the mission” were confirmatory of this ‘why go into nursing’ research. 
  2. Helpingphysically, mentally and emotionally; nurses find meaning through interactions with other people: patients, patient families, peers and students; whether healing or teaching, capabilities of Helping others defines the Service they provide as core to their individual sense of purpose as a nurse. 
  3. Dedicationcontributing to society creates a personal sense of mission and purpose for nurses; long working hours, shared knowledge and skills in and outside of the profession and continued work as educators or consultants post-retirement, all reflect this Dedication; nurses do this quite naturally, and it serves them to uphold their whole selves in Service to the role. 
  4. & 5.  Collaboration & Performanceclosely interdependent but meaningful to delineate, nurses believe in collaboration – working toward a common goal at work and assess their ability to perform from having a sense of accomplishment in the way in which the goals are achieved; nurses feel their greatest sense of contribution through direct patient care (or their performance); they also acknowledge that this happens through a team working together, ‘My purpose is to let people know they are valuable; it does take more minds than mine to come up with good ideas.’

Service can build and develop an individual’s sense of purpose with the personal recognition to “make a difference.” The reward that comes with giving back to society and helping others is what nurses contend to maintain and build their sense of purpose. That they are able to understand themselves better through serving and Helping others. Further engagement is regularly created through connections and interactions with patients or nursing students. “Losing a student is worse than losing a patient,” as reflected by the Silent and Boomer generations of nursing school faculty. It is a legacy of service to give back to society through education. 

We would love to hear from you about how SERVICE drives your purpose. How does your leadership empower service in your industry?

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