The 2013 intake of undergraduate nursing students at the University of Adelaide School of Nursing commenced their studies at the end of February 2013. As Head, my role is to welcome them to the School, the University, and, most importantly, to commend them for choosing to become nurses. The lecture theatre was overflowing. Young and not so young faces looking at me. I began by congratulating them for their good judgment in selecting one of the most rewarding, challenging and important professional roles to which they could commit their talents. Our job, as educators and researchers, was to equip them, firstly, with the powers of critical thinking, followed by a deep and working knowledge of the nature of compassion and how it is demonstrated in a professional role. Next is the understanding of the role of personal courage in tackling the many challenges facing them as students and novice professionals. My commitment to our students was that in our role as mentors, guides and companions in their learning, we would build upon these three foundations – critical thinking, the nature and exercise of compassion and the development of personal resilience and courage to create in our students that ultimate goal, the ability to care.
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