By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN
As we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), it’s a good time to talk about the expanding role that nurses play and will play in the future as health care evolves to meet the changing demographics and health-care needs of the population.
While many people think of nurses as “assistants” to the physician, we are actually equal partners in health care, each with a separate and unique yet vital role. One is not an elevated version of the other. Nurses work to keep you healthy and well, helping you to heal when necessary, providing you comfort and care, supporting you at the end of your life, and bringing new life into the world.
Here are 11 ways and places that nurses work for you and with you:
1. Nurses are your primary caregivers while in the hospital, not your physician. It is the nurse who is coordinating, managing and delivering your care. We’re also leading the care team in your hospital unit.
2. We are your 24/7 frontline caregivers. We are observing and evaluating your care and condition on a minute-to-minute basis watching for any subtle changes in your condition. We initiate life-saving measures as needed, make health and care decisions and expertly minister to your needs.
3. We are your primary health-care advocate. Since nurses are overseeing and coordinating your care, they are often the first ones to notice an error, an omission or a discrepancy. Likewise, if there is something you are concerned or confused about, the RN in charge of your care can help you. We consult and confer with all care providers, make recommendations, and question others’ treatment plans when necessary. It is our goal to make you feel – and be – safe and cared for.
4. Many nurses are certified in their specialty giving them additional expert knowledge and skill.
5. Nurses help you navigate your way through a complex and often confusing health-care system. This is particularly important when you received a diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness.
6. It’s important to remember that nurses don’t just work in hospitals or with sick people. We are in the community in nurse-led clinics, in the public health sector, in schools, in wellness centers, hospice, home care, and in business and industry.
7. When you go to a hospital, you may have surgery, tests, and procedures, but you are there for nursing care. And if you want to know which hospitals/facilities have the best nursing care, just ask a nurse in the community.
8. If you’re looking for the best physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives, ask a nurse. Physicians don’t work with all of these primary care providers, but nurses do, so they may know a good fit for your needs.
9. Many nurses are self-employed and provide services independently such as wellness coaching, weight management, massage therapy, mindfulness-based stress management, nutritional counseling, lactation consultants, well-baby care coaches and more.
10. Nurses also work doing health research, setting health-care policy, running not-for-profit and government health agencies, as health-care facility administrators, and managing technology and patient care data.
11. Advanced practice nurses such as Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Nurse-Midwives, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists will be providing an increasingly larger share of primary care services that were once provided exclusively by physicians.
In any setting, registered nurses are your partners in health and in health care.
©Donna Cardillo. All rights reserved.