In May 2019, the World Health Organization or WHO declared 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” as a celebration of Florence Nightingale’s (1820-1910) 200th birthday. Such a declaration was welcome in the United States, considering that nurses comprise the country’s largest healthcare profession with over 3.8 million of them! Nurses have also been and continue to be in the forefront – the familiar face, if you will – of our nation’s healthcare system.
The international health crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic that has touched every aspect of American society, infected over 14.4 million, and resulted in more than 280,000 deaths and counting – highlighted nurses’ importance. While we may have been divided about pandemic-related issues, we all agree that nurses are at the frontline of the mission to save lives.
This is a clarion call for nurses, but they aren’t new to it! Throughout history, nurses have stepped up to the task of saving lives, keeping communities healthy, and providing competent care to every patient. The current coronavirus pandemic isn’t different; indeed, we continue to see nurses doing what they do best.
Examples of the nursing profession’s contributions toward public health during a crisis are aplenty. During the 1918 influenza pandemic, dubbed as the most severe in recent history, nurses performed vital roles in containing its spread. They made home visits to patients, provided critical nursing care, implemented strict handwashing and sanitation measures, and educated the public about them. They also promoted the benefits of good hand hygiene, exposure to fresh air, and social isolation.
Do these sound familiar? Indeed, these are the same preventive measures that the healthcare industry, including WHO and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, promote during the coronavirus pandemic!
Nurses answered the clarion call, often at the risk of their health and lives, again and again. They were on the frontlines during many infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, H1N1 Swine Flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). They are front and center in the fight against these outbreaks, working around the clock in pressure-filled situations and providing patient care and valuable information to doctors and researchers.
But that’s not all either! Nurses also provide direct care to hospitalized patients, provide their healthcare expertise in a wide range of settings from public health operations to disaster preparedness and response, and lend their research activities skills. Indeed, we can’t imagine a world where nurses aren’t present.
Aren’t they amazing? Yes, they are, and not just because of their dedication to their profession but, more importantly, also because of their humanity!
Nurses are also among the smartest in the healthcare profession. Their education and training demand physical endurance, a single-minded mental focus, and above-average intelligence, traits that spill over into their professional work.
A diploma in nursing from a diploma program offered by medical centers and hospitals;
An associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree or an associate degree in nursing (ADN), which takes up to three years to complete; or a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN), which takes four years to complete.
Every nursing program includes supervised clinical experience in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. The coursework includes physical and social sciences, anatomy, nursing fundamentals, physiology, psychology, pharmacology, maternal and infant health, community and environmental nursing, and clinical theory. To say that studying to become a nurse is academically rigorous is an understatement!
Nursing students must also learn proper bedside manners and cultivate personal traits essential to their profession. These include deep compassion, effective communication, and a strong work ethic.
While licensed nurses from any of the above-mentioned three educational programs will qualify for entry-level positions, such as staff nurses, many employers prefer nurses with a bachelor’s degree. For this reason, registered nurses with a diploma, ADN, or ASN enroll in RN-to-BSN programs for career advancement.
Nurses can also pursue graduate and post-graduate education for career advancement reasons too. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), for example, have a master’s degree in nursing, satisfied additional state licensing requirements, and gained specialty certifications.
Of course, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and must have a nursing license from their respective states. The state-issued license has its specific requirements, too, such as a criminal background check.
- Assess the physical and mental condition of patients
- Record the medical histories, symptoms, and progress of patients
- Administer the doctor-approved medicines and treatments for patients
- Create and implement patient care plans, as well as work with other healthcare professionals for this purpose
- Collaborate and consult with healthcare professionals, including doctors
- Operate, monitor, and troubleshoot medical equipment
- Lend a hand during diagnostic tests and results analysis
- Educate patients and the patients’ families about their illnesses or injuries, including home care
- Nurses are truly superheroes without capes! Before the year ends and in the following years, let’s take the time and make an effort to appreciate them. They deserve your praise and thanks, perhaps a token of appreciation on the side.
Becoming a licensed nurse demands between two and four years of study characterized by intense study sessions, rigorous classroom lectures, and challenging internships. They must quickly think on their feet and apply their training according to their demands at work. Furthermore, licensed nurses must pursue continuing professional education and training, a must to keep up with the ever-changing science and technology in the medical industry. Now, that requires serious intelligence, dedication, and persistence!
Without nurses, nobody else will have the competence and compassion to check on patients, respond to emergencies, perform vital tests, and administer medications, among other essential healthcare services. Nurses are the right-hand men, so to speak, of physicians by acting as their eyes and ears on the ground! By relaying information from the doctors to the patients and vice versa, they are arguably the essential healthcare workers in any setting.
Regardless of where they choose to work, nurses make a real and tangible difference in people’s lives! In hospitals, nurses can save the lives of patients through their medical knowledge and skills. In community settings, they actively promote public health, care for the most vulnerable and least fortunate, and volunteer their time to worthy causes. Indeed, nurses say that making a difference is among their top reasons for entering the profession – and why they stay, too.
Most, if not all, of us have been in a hospital for check-ups and hospitalization. Nurses are the first faces we see, the first professionals who provide medical care, and the first to give comfort in a scary situation. No one can deny the familiarity and comfort nurses give and how they keep patients calmer and provide better information about their symptoms. Even the patient’s family members become less worried when a calm and friendly nurse gives them assurances.
While doctors decide the proper patient treatment, nurses carry out the orders, including administering drugs and the therapeutic measures. Their professional training and personal care for patients improve their chances for recovery and rehabilitation that, in turn, decrease patient stay, healthcare costs, and mortality. Nurses often go above and beyond their call of duty to fight for their patients’ lives and make their quality of life at the hospital and home better.
Nurses are humans, too, and they can have bad days at home and work! Yet, they can set aside their troubles, be competent professionals, and give compassion when needed. They have to do their best no matter their situation because it isn’t just their jobs at stake – it’s also their patients’ lives at stake.
Hands down, nurses interact with patients more than any other group of health professionals, including doctors! Nurses are present in nearly every step of the way in inpatient care, from pre-checkup and pre-admission to admission, surgery, and recovery. Patients and their families also tend to ask questions, express their needs and make small talk with nurses – and if you want to know your loved one’s real condition, you can ask a nurse for honest yet compassionate answers.
From the outside, patient care and other aspects of the healthcare system seem well-organized. But if you have an insider’s view, it can be chaotic most days! There are a million and one things to consider – drugs and their doses, diagnostic tests, and their interpretation, decisions on treatment plans, and insurance issues are just a few examples – every day. Fortunately, nurses apply their exemplary training to many of these things and act as the glue that keeps the chaos at bay.
Have you ever noticed that despite the urgency and pressure of medical emergencies, nurses keep their cool? Even when people around them are screaming, crying, and getting hysterical, they are calm under pressure. Such a cool as cucumber attitude isn’t because nurses don’t care – instead, it’s because being calm is a must to make smart decisions regarding patient care. Now that’s what makes people feel safe in their presence!
Sometimes, there’s nothing to smile about when going for your check-up or being in the hospital. But nurses are amazing at eliciting a smile, even laughter, from their patients using a mix of humor, compassion, and competent care. They know that it isn’t easy to be ill or injured, so they go the extra mile to make your situation a little more tolerable.
There will always be difficult for patients who test nurses’ patience, which is part of the job. Indeed, nursing can be a thankless job for many reasons, from superiors’ condescending attitude to patients’ unwarranted complaints. But nurses being the amazing persons they are, will see the silver lining and smile! So, when you feel like being in a sour mood with nurses, take a step back and thank them for their service.
Because of their frequent face-to-face interaction with patients, nurses see them not just as another patient in a long line of patients during the day. Instead, they will take the time to know a little more about the person beyond the name, vital signs, and medical history, usually through small talk. They aren’t nosy, but they make patients feel seen and heard as unique persons, making patients feel good about themselves.
Kind, gentle, and caring are commonly used words that patients use when referring to compassionate nurses. These aspects aren’t just in the form of words but also in deeds and the capacity to understand that every person interprets compassion differently. It may be the nurse’s listening ear and comforting hug for a few minutes for a grieving mother. For an older adult concerned about his appearance before a family visit, it may be in the form of grooming assistance.
According to the Gallup’s Honesty and Ethics in Professions poll, nurses are among the most trusted professionals. Unsurprisingly, nurses have been so for more than 15 years! They elicit trust among patients because of their competence, compassion, and attention to their needs while also earning the respect of their fellow health professionals, especially doctors.
Some patients don’t ask their doctors for details about their condition and treatment for many reasons, such as being intimidated by the doctor’s persona, confusion about medical terms, and time constraints. So, where do patients turn to for more answers? Of course, the nurses are usually more approachable and able to explain medical terms in layman terms.
Relationships, including friendships, make life more meaningful, but these demand time, energy, and effort. Yet, nurses strive to build positive relationships with their patients, peers, and supervisors because it’s just who they are! If you’re feeling lonely during your hospital or hospice stay, you will likely find one or two nurses who can ease your loneliness, perhaps become your instant friend.
Due to the time they spend with patients, their attention to detail, and their quick thinking, nurses can save lives! Doctors also heavily rely on nurses for vital patient information that can mean the difference between life and death. Nurses are also likely the first healthcare professionals when a code blue is made from a patient’s room.
Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. Older people can have a heart attack or stroke in the park. Children can drown in public swimming pools. Mothers can give birth on the street. Where a nurse is present, these emergencies can be addressed properly and promptly! After all, nurses have the training to deal with these situations and not hesitate to use their skills.
Even when they say so little, nurses exude a compassionate air that encourages patients and their families to express their worries, fears, and concerns. They act as a sounding board, so patients and their families can unload themselves, so to speak, and see their situation in a better light.
Poo, pee, pus, vomit, and blood. These things make many of us queasy, even vomit from their grossness, but nurses handle them all in stride! They will handle these bodily secretions without hesitation – but with safety precautions like wearing gloves and mask obviously – because these are par for the course. Plus, they also help patients in their bodily functions and grooming activities, and we’re thankful for it.
People are at the center of everything that nurses do, a commitment to their profession that can often mean missing breaks, family time, and holidays. Nurses are amazing at caring for others so much so that they can forget about themselves.
Fortunately, nurses know that you cannot give what you don’t have! They then take good care of themselves, too, so they don’t experience physical and mental burnout. They are then better able to do their jobs, particularly in patient care, because they are also healthy, full of energy, and filled with compassion.
Not all nurses are found in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, among other healthcare facilities. Many are also involved in the education sector as teachers in nursing schools and prepare aspiring nurses for the profession’s rigors and rewards. But even those who aren’t in education also train aspiring nurses through their clinical rounds, not to mention that they also educate patients and their families about their condition, treatment, and recovery.
There’s a huge amount of communication in a healthcare setting because there are numerous persons, procedures, and processes involved in patient care – and we’re not even talking about the administrative, maintenance, and operations part of it all! Fortunately, nurses are adept communicators who can easily switch from compassionate words for patients to technical reports for other healthcare professionals.
Prioritizing is second nature to nurses, and they make it look so effortless! They are constantly assessing situations, working with others, and prioritizing workloads while still working well in a busy environment and ever-changing environment. They can juggle multiple tasks, face triage situations, and make priorities on the go, too.
Hospitals may seem quiet – and that’s intentional so patients can rest well in their rooms – but there’s a myriad of activities that must be done. Many of these activities fall on nurses’ shoulders, and, as such, they must work hard during their shift that can last for 12 hours. They can’t afford to be complacent, much less lazy, because backlogs are unacceptable, especially during shift changes.
Nurses aren’t just quick on their feet, literally, but also quick when it comes to identifying issues and solving them! They have been trained to make a swift assessment of situations and take appropriate action ASAP, if necessary. Many of these problems can be life-threatening while others may seem trivial to others but vital to the concerned patient and their families – but nurses will strive to solve them anyway.
Healthcare facilities employ a wide range of professions, from doctors and nurses to social workers and maintenance men. At the center of it, all nurses must work with everybody to ensure effective and efficient patient care. Nurses have to work with others as part of a larger team, and it’s among the most challenging elements in any workplace, but nurses do so with aplomb.
Did we mention that nurses are intelligent professionals who receive consistent training on the job? They must also quickly learn new and updated equipment, paperwork, and protocols—all while caring for new patients nearly every day! Their minds are among the sharpest, but their tongues are the kindest – aren’t they amazing? Many specialized nurses must also learn to operate, maintain, and even troubleshoot complicated equipment through short training.
They have to be because of the myriad of duties they must perform and perform well! Nurses must maintain systematic records containing the tiniest details and then hand over their caseload to the next nurses-on-duty. Such an organization doesn’t just include a talent for remembering things but also neatness, effective time management, and prioritization. There’s also the matter of being organized in one’s thoughts instead of being a scatterbrain while on the job.
Did you know that nurses are sleuths in their own right? They will obtain your medical history and present condition, including changes in your symptoms, so that doctors can be informed. They will also take part in understanding your symptoms alongside doctors and medical technologists. They are also participants in research studies conducted by hospitals and other healthcare institutions, usually through keeping detailed records.
Their keen eye for the smallest detail is a must since even a single misplaced decimal point can mean the difference between the right dose and an overdose, for example. Nurses must also be keenly aware of their environment, particularly when in a patient’s room, to identify anything out of place or out of the ordinary. They must be conscientious because they are, after all, the right-hand men of doctors who are humans and, thus, also vulnerable to mistakes.
Nurses must present every day in one form or another, and their excellent presentation skills have been honed by years of practice. Their presentation skills are on full display when they facilitate interdisciplinary meetings between doctors and other healthcare professionals for patient care purposes. They also make presentations during job interviews, conferences and seminars, poster presentations, ward-based teaching, and case reports, and each time they are expected to deliver their best.
There’s nearly nothing like a busy day in a nurse’s life! While there are routine daily tasks, unexpected changes during the day demand quick adaptation. Everything from new patients during a disaster to new procedures from upper management can throw a monkey wrench into a typical busy day. But hey, nurses take all of these in stride!
Does the patient exhibit changes in his skin color, mood, or physical movement? Nurses should pick up clues about changes in symptoms, identify the difference between normal and abnormal changes, and communicate these observations to the doctors. They must also prepare notes, temperature graphs, and flow sheets, among other documents, which require sharp observation skills. Indeed, nurses are continually reading patients and observing situations since these may prove crucial in their life-saving functions.
Nurses have several people who also report to them, such as nursing assistants and students, and their leadership skills are put to the test, too. They must embrace cultural diversity and adopt a global perspective as leaders of a diverse team and apply their team-building skills to create productive working relationships, deliver expected results, and manage conflict. They should also balance patients’ and stakeholders’ interests, a balancing act that will test their professional and personal ethics.
No, not fashion designers but document designers, among many other functions. As soon as a patient is discharged from the healthcare facility, nurses have to design a custom-made discharge plan that considers the patient’s unique needs. These include the required equipment, transportation, accessibility in the home, and the drugs and caregiving measures for recovery. Such customization comes not just from their professional training but also their knowledge of each patient.
Patient advocacy isn’t optional for nurses. It is expressly cited in the American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics that states: “The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.” Nurses advocate for patients by ensuring their safety, giving patients a voice in their treatment, educating them on their condition, connecting them to resources, and protecting their rights. Their advocacy typically applies in the healthcare facility, in the community, and even in legal settings and their families.
In line with the role of patient advocacy, nurses are trained to be critical thinkers so that their decisions result in positive, if not powerful, patient outcomes. Their logical thought process enables them to evaluate facts, assess the situation, and make rational conclusions, whether in a typical situation or an emergency setting. Nurses use their critical thinking skills during triage situations where, for example, they can determine whether it is a heart attack or indigestion that a patient is having.
Nurses see patients from all walks of life – truly, the definition of diversity encompassing race, gender, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status. Their experiences can range from a cooperative patient who believes in the powers of modern medicine to a patient who vehemently declines certain medical care, such as blood transfusions, for religious reasons. Fortunately, nurses maintain an open mind in their dealings, respect differences among people, and understand their opinions. In short, they won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do.
Versatility manifests itself in many different ways where nurses are concerned. First, nurses can work weekends and weekdays, holidays and overtime, and in and out of a healthcare setting, often without prior notice. Yet, they still manage to maintain a good work-life balance because, again, you can’t give what you don’t have! Second, they work in diverse settings and take up different specialties, such as in oncology, obstetrics, and surgery – and their versatility makes them even more awesome.
Did the patient just suddenly deteriorate after progressing so well in the last hour? Did the emergency room become crowded from victims of a pile-up or a natural disaster? Did the premature baby start flat-lining? While non-medical personnel may panic, nurses won’t! They are ready for any atypical event in their workplace and, thus, will stay cool as cucumbers. Whatever the day throws at them, they will be ready to catch it.
Being respectful may not be a must-have quality among nurses, but it’s vital to encourage trust among their patients and peers. For nurses, a respectful mindset becomes the foundation upon which an effective therapeutic relationship can be established. But it isn’t just about the patients either – nurses must also respect the rules of their profession and the healthcare industry, particularly as it’s a highly regulated one. They must then learn to work within the rules instead of around them.
While nurses should maintain a professional distance from their patients and families, their compassionate nature means they also share their patients’ sadness and happiness. For example, NICU nurses are just as happy as the parents of their wards to see them go home, as healthy as any other baby can be. They even cry when things go wrong, although patients will likely not see them in such a vulnerable state – after all, they must remain strong and professional.
Arguably, nurses will beat triathletes and marathon runners when it comes to physical stamina! Just imagine being on your feet for 8-12 hours depending on your shift, being awake and alert every minute of it, and walking to and fro everywhere in the hospital. Then, there’s also the heavy lifting of equipment and patients, the sprinting during code blues and emergencies, and the heart-pumping stress of it all. Yes, nurses are superhuman in our eyes – superheroes in running shoes, for that matter.
Nurses have to be assertive if they want to become effective patient advocates, to be respected by their peers and superiors, and for their voices to be heard. Assertiveness, of course, isn’t synonymous with being aggressive – the former means expressing your opinions honestly and straightforwardly without being disrespectful or dismissive of other people. Where aggressiveness means engaging in manipulative behavior, assertiveness involves mutual respect and the willingness to seek solutions together. Nurses have such an admirable quality!
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act discloses that medical information may only be shared and exchanged between healthcare providers with the concerned patient’s express consent. Nurses are then bound by law and ethics to keep their patients’ personal and medical information confidential; not even their closest family members and friends should know about their cases. Indeed, nurses are among the most discreet professionals, and, thus, they earn their patients’ trust.
The idea of reliability is simple – reliability means consistently performing what’s expected and delivering the expected results. But it is usually easier said than done because there will always be uncontrollable and unpredictable factors that come into play. This is all too true in the busy schedules, often chaotic environment, of nurses. Still, they continue to be the epitome of reliability – performing their routine tasks even as they have to pick up atypical tasks during their day.
Nurses face ethical and moral dilemmas that can shake their souls and their profession. These dilemmas can take many forms, too, from caring for elderly patients with terminal illnesses to making decisions with other healthcare staff members. They must then continually check themselves for conflicts of interest and possible violations of the Code of Ethics for Nurses. But their main interest will always be their patient’s welfare, a mindset that strengthens their moral compass and makes us respect them even more.
Despite all of these amazing traits, not to mention that they are less recognized than doctors, nurses remain humble! They don’t see themselves as heroes or superheroes even when they deserve the accolades. For nurses, they do what they do because they love helping others, and they love their profession. They don’t even seek recognition, and that’s what ultimately makes them truly amazing!
We can go on and on about the reasons why nurses are amazing and why they deserve our appreciation and praise. But we also realize that words may be sweet, but actions are sweeter.
We should not hesitate to express our sincere appreciation for the noble work that nurses do for us. Here are some suggestions that we think will make their day.
Just say, thank you. When all is said and done, “Thank you” are the words that most matter. Be sure to mean it, too, because sincere thanks always make a nurse’s day better.
Give each of your nurses a personalized handwritten note to express your thanks. These notes can be left at their station, perhaps with a cup of coffee.
Bring them healthy snacks, delicious cakes, home-cooked dishes, perhaps packed lunches or sandwiches with coffee. Nurses become so busy during their shift that they often skip meals and snacks. Your thoughtful gift will serve as their fuel as they strive to finish all their tasks for the day.
Give them a gift basket with a short handwritten thank you note. You don’t have to spend wads of dollars on it – they will probably be embarrassed about receiving lavish gifts from present and former patients – because it’s the sincerity and thoughts that count.
Such tokens of appreciation may be small, but nurses will find them so sweet! Start now and boost their morale – you may well make their day better, too.