Being a nurse is more than bedside care. Nurses also work “behind the scenes,” fulfilling roles that many patients may not be aware of or even fully understand. Even nursing students might not have a full understanding of all the responsibilities in the nursing field.
1. Critical Thinking After Data Collection
Nurses ask a lot of questions. All those questions you answer when you are with the nurse help them make decisions about your care. The nurse takes the data and can hypothesize possible diagnoses before talking with the doctor.
2. Nurses are Teachers
Nurses continually educate patients about their new diagnoses and treatments. They assess the patient’s life at home to see if knowledge gaps exist that they can help distill before discharge. They have the resources to teach about all sorts of self-care behaviors that assist patients in achieving health and wellness far beyond the confines of the hospital room.
3. Family-Centered Care
When we have a patient to care for, we have a family to care for, too. A lot of the teaching performed is given to the family alongside the patient. The patient’s support system often asks questions outside the room to the nurse or doctor. Home caregivers need instructions about how to safely care for their loved one at home. Nurses work diligently to deliver this education before the patient is discharged and even observe family performing care to ensure all critical steps are met.
4. Nurses Have Emotions, Too
Unfortunately, a lot of sad situations exist in the world of healthcare. If you don’t see your nurse cry, that doesn’t mean he or she is made of steel. Nurses must keep their emotions in check because we need to be able to care for the patient next door. Nursing is a constant emotional and mental pull. But, don’t worry, we have our coworkers to cry with when we need to have a good emotional cleanse.
5. Seeing the Patient’s Problem Before the Doctor Does
Nurses are at the center of patient care. The nurse considers the lab values first, interprets them as much as they can and reports their findings to the doctor. Nurses often intervene with some problems before the doctor is aware.
For example, where I work in labor and delivery, if a baby is exhibiting distress on the electronic fetal monitor, I intervene with fluid boluses, position changes, stopping medications, and other standing orders before I call the physician. As the bedside nurse, I’m the one who has to question, “why is the baby not responding well?” and “what should I do now, to fix the problem?” If the nurse is unable to successfully administer nursing interventions to counteract the signs the patient is exhibiting, he or she will call the physician for further orders.
6. Trust is difficult to build with patients
The general public might not understand the nurse’s role in building trust. Nurses are the most trusted profession. The patients believe in their physician who may have sent them to the hospital, or see them all the time, but the nurse is a stranger. We cannot walk in and expect the truth when we ask questions without getting to know the patient first. I try to talk to the whole family when I introduce myself, and I always try to lead with light-hearted conversation to minimize stress and fears. No one likes to be in the hospital, so I try to make it as calm as possible.
7. Nurses Research
There’s so much to know as a registered nurse. We are not experts in every part of nursing because let’s be honest – no one is an expert in everything. We have resources and protocols on every procedure we perform. Nurses may have to research medications or new processes, but they are probably familiar with it from the beginning. Best practice tells us that we must always do research instead of guessing!
8. Lots of Nurses are Nerds
Nurses are continually learning. We love researching evidence-based practice and learning how to enhance our care to be the best nurse possible. Good nurses are bookworms and enjoy nursing and medical journals. We join professional organizations and often are in social groups online that support their specialty.
9. Nurses are Advocates
The patient may think the doctor calls the shots in all areas of healthcare. However, this is not always true. Nurses review and execute doctors’ orders, but if we disagree, the nurse requests clarification before carrying it out. This is how the nurse fulfills the role of patient advocate. We speak up for the patient if the doctor isn’t providing the right treatment and will question if it’s something out of the norm. Why doesn’t the general population know that? Nurses don’t make a practice of telling patients that they disagreed with their doctor, as this is part of the collaborative role the nurse holds to ensure safe patient care.
10. Nurses Provide Care to Those Who Need It Most
We care for those that no one wants to care for, but we do so without complaining. I’m not talking about the patient in the ICU, I’m talking about those who come in shackles from the local jail or those who are withdrawing after an overdose.
Did you know nurses fill all these roles? It’s important to understand that the profession is like detective work. It’s an amazing feeling when we figure out the problem and fix it!
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Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a freelance writer and owner of WriteRN.net.