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Who’s Your Inspiration? Talking with David Benton about Some Memorable Nurses

David Benton is CEO of the International Council of Nurses, a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing millions of nurses worldwide. While he was here to speak at IntraHealth’s 30th anniversary celebration, I had the chance to ask him a few questions. On International Nurses’ Day, I’d like to share his examples of a few nurses who particularly inspired him.

Why he decided to become a nurse

“My first degree is in engineering […] but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do. My father had multiple sclerosis and was hospitalized; having completed my degree but not really knowing what I wanted to do, I went back home and spent a great deal of time actually visiting him in hospital.

“It’s not just one nurse but it was a whole range of nurses that were involved in his care that really inspired me to come into the profession—and it was the way that they met his needs in a very respectful way and also met my needs and my family’s needs as part of that process. And it really made me think, this is something I really want to do because it just touches so many people when you do it well.”

Combining study with practice

“Margaret Alexander, one of the first doctorally prepared nurses in Scotland […] demonstrated the added value of study in terms of being able to act as a role model, to demonstrate clearly decision-making in practice, and to explain and communicate with her students (of whom I was one) and the patients and families she cared for. So she’s someone that I hold in very high regard, and over the years, in fact, we’ve worked together […].”

The essence of nursing

“I visited a rural community clinic in El Salvador […]. This part of El Salvador is having a particular problem with dengue fever, and the [head] nurse was explaining the work that she had been doing and leading in relation to tackling that problem within the community. She had identified where the cases were, she had mapped it in a handwritten map, she—on the basis of this—had initiated public health education programs which were extremely well attended.

“I said to her, ‘So, in addition to your initial nurse training, what opportunity have you had to study to enable you to do this work?’ And she said, ‘Nothing. […] I recognized the problem and I have pursued it on my own through reading, etc.’

“To me, that’s inspirational because she really took the essence of what nursing is, which is actually about seeing the needs of the individual and population, and addressing them in a creative way, despite the fact that in that part of the world there’s a shortage of resources, a shortage of workers—but she made a difference.”