Nursing Notes

October 31, 2009

What does a nurse really do?

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 10:05 am
A nurse working in a nursing home.
Image via Wikipedia


I found this question online and was struck with how brief the answer was:

What does a nurse do for the people?


A nurse gives: medicine, shots, hangs iv drugs, gives baths, checks orders, double checks medicines and doses, alerts doctors to mistakes, checks tests, checks results, assesses patient, keeps patient comfortable, starts iv’s, draws blood, monitors patients condition, notifies doctor of changes, evaluates what is and isn’t an emergency, answers patients questions, problem solves, deals with families, cleans up vomit, and feces, and assists patient in everyway.

I don’t think this even begins to cover the subject.  Nurses do all those things, yes; but what do they really do?

Nursing is about caring–sounds trite, but nonetheless it is true.  A nurse cares for her patients and does everything she/he can do to improve the health and well-being for each patient.  However, how do you quantify all of the other things that nurses do instinctively for patients?  We hold hands, we listen, we laugh at jokes, we talk with families, we educate, we advocate, we stand up for those who cannot stand up.  We worry about patients after we go home, we help with tasks no longer easy or painless, we give encouragement, we watch for signs of problems so we can head them off, we quite simply care.

Nursing is not so much in the tasks we do, but more in the way we do them.  Nursing is alot more than just going through the motions.  Nurses are present in the moment with the patient; nurses are connected to our patients in a way that no one else cares to be; nurses accept both the good and the bad and try to find common ground.  So, I don’t think the answer above is quite all there is.

Here is an excerpt from an article on the website of The Center for Nursing Advocacy:

What does a nurse really do?

This is a note, reproduced largely verbatim, left recently at a nurse’s station at a rehabilitation unit in Detroit by a difficult patient upon his discharge from the unit.

Dear [Nurse],

I wanted to thank you personally for teaching this old dog new tricks. I always thought that nurses were basically the doctor’s handmaidens. I thought that the sexy little stereotype portrayed on television with the nurse doing sex in the linen closet with whoever was correct. I looked upon your profession badly, and I sincerely apologize.

What I have found during my stay in your care, is a completely different story (and I won’t say [you’re] not sexy, [because] you are, but you made it clear you don’t date patients, but just in case I am leaving my number at the end here). Anyway this is what I want to say, and I think each patient should be given a copy of this part on admission to any nursing facility and hospitals should be known as nursing care providers, because a patient enters the hospital for nursing care. I found this out during my stay. I had nurses 24 hours a day every day I was hospitalized, I had maybe 10 minutes a day with the doctor. So here goes my opinion of what every patient needs to know.

1. You have been placed in the hospital for nursing care.

2. The provider of that care is an educated individual who unselfishly dedicates themselves to your health and well-being. And even though you may not like being told what things are good for you and what are not, the nurse telling you does so to give you a chance to redeem your health and well-being.

3. That provider is proud to be a nurse.

4. That nurse does more than you know. She plans your care around your medical condition, emotional state, abilities to do for yourself (sorry, [nurse], I think you said “self care” in your rant), that nurse provides support to you and your family, she/he is the link between you and the doctor, [and] the everything in the facility.

5. That nurse does your bedside care, she knows what medicine you need when, and how to give it. She knows what all the tubes and stuff are and what they are used for and what to look at them for.

6. That nurse can hang an IV or hold your hand and reassure you.

7. That nurse watches over you and reads monitors and knows when [you’re] sleeping and when [you’re] awake and pulls strings to get you that cup of tea at 3 a.m.

8. That nurse is your lifeline, she can call a whole team of professionals together with her calm voice and make them work their [butts] off for your life with the flash of her/his eyes.

9. That nurse will wish you luck and give you all the instructions you need when you leave her competent care even if you were the biggest pain in the ass she ever met.

10. The nurse is why you are in the hospital and why you will go onward, be it home, perpetual care, or the morgue, she will insure that you do so with your dignity and rights intact. Why? Because it is what a nurse does.

/signed/ ……………..

This one comes just a little closer to the truth, but in my opinion still leaves out something.  What do you think? Won’t you leave me a comment telling me what you think a nurse does?


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