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Being a Nurse

nurses, national nurses week

Being a Nurse

It has been almost 34 years since I graduated from nursing school. So many things have changed over the time. The number of hospitals and hospital beds grew and now those are shrinking. Reimbursement for acute care has decreased. The regulations have become more stringent forcing a slow down in workflows and increased documentation requirements. Technologies have advanced; some designed to support the work of the nurse and patient safety. The electronic health record and care plans have decreased the use of paper and increased the accessibility to the records. There are more drugs, more hazards, and more things a nurse needs to know about the drugs. There are “time outs,” “stop the line,” “scrub the hub,” CAUTI, CLIP, VAP, HCAHPS, etc. There are mandated nurse-patient ratios in some states and nursing unions in others. The list can go on and on.

The opportunities for nurses have also changed. They are running non-nursing departments in hospitals, becoming Chief Operating Officers and Chief Executive Officers, working at the federal level of government, and traveling abroad to do mission work and disaster relief. Nurses serve at different levels in the Armed Forces caring for our soldiers. They are opening their own businesses to staff hospitals with temporary relief, holistic care, chronic care, policy management, and a variety of consulting services. We have grown and our profession has changed.

The number of professional organizations has grown. These organizations offer certifications to demonstrate a standard knowledge base for a particular specialty. Resources found at these nursing organizations support our growth and professionalism. We have multiple generations working side by side from baby boomers to millennials. This of course can be challenging, but if we keep our focus on our patients, we can overcome our differences and bridge our generational gaps. There are times we struggle with one another, with our cohorts, and with other departments, but as long as we work together for the benefit of our patients, we will prevail.

One thing that has not changed is the role of the nurse. No matter what we do, it can be tied back to the patient. We are the trusted ones, the confidant, the guardian, the advocate, the educator, and the enforcer. In annual polls, nurses are at the top for trusted professionals. Patients rely on us to guard their privacy and their rights. As advocates, we stand between the patient and harm or misadventure; we help them get answers for their questions; sometimes we help them ask their questions.  We should never forget who we are and what we do.

Nurses pass knowledge by “talking story.” We tell our experiences to one another during shift change, during down time, during formal and informal education sessions, in journal articles, in books, at conferences, and through the use of technology. We all have stories. We use them to share information, to teach, to debrief, to bond, to celebrate, and to mourn. We are rich with culture; with stories, good and not so good; with knowledge, with trailblazers, and with history.

An RN friend of mine recently shared the following (author unknown):

I’m a nurse.

These eyes have seen pain.

These hands have touched hearts.

This heart has felt brokenness.

These feet have walked a thousand miles

All for our patients.

I’m a nurse.

It is so true, all of it – it bring tears to my eyes. I remember all the laughter and the tears. I remember the unbelievable saves and the sad losses. I remember some of the most poignant stories of my patients’ lives, challenges and deaths. I remember the children and the parents and the siblings and the spouses. I remember the joys and the horrors of humanity. I remember because I never want to forget.

Am I wearing “rose-colored glasses?” No, I know our weaknesses and our failures. I have seen and worked with nurses that I felt did not deserve their licenses or the opportunity to care for patients. I have had days where I failed my patients and my staff. However, with that being said, I love being a registered nurse. There is nothing else that I would choose for a profession. I believe nurses can do anything. I love mentoring nurses, new or established. I love the energy. I love the technologies. I love our role. I love our knowledge; the science and the art. I love our practice. I love that we remain the closest profession to the patient. I love our collaboration with multidisciplines. I love what we do and the potential I see before us.

Happy Nurses’ Week to my peers and our loved ones who walk this path with us. Never forget who we are and who we serve. And never forget that we can do anything.





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