What Do Nurses Really Do
One of the most common misperceptions about nursing is that “all we do is clean up bedpans.” While that may be ONE thing that we do, we do a lot more to direct patient care. When there’s a change in conditions (sudden onset of chest pain, trouble breathing, pain, vital sign changes, etc), we are the ones who see it first and decide the next best thing to do. When we see a treatment not working for patients, we are the ones who speak up to change the course of treatment. We make sure there’s no further complications associated with lying in bed for a long period of time (DVT, confusion, constipation, bed sores/pressure ulcers, falls, etc). Clinically, we should be at the top of our game. Below is a list of what nurses really do.
Nurses catch and prevent the medication error that would have killed you.
Nurses catch and stop the infection that would have killed you.
Nurses diagnose an ICU patient’s wide complex tachycardia, call a code, and defibrillate–saving the patient’s life.
Nurses triage ED patients based on their own expert evaluation of how sick the patients are–saving patients’ lives.
Nurses give powerful medications and vaccinations–saving patients’ lives.
Nurses are the care givers most likely to be there when patients are screaming, crying, laughing, or dying.
Nurses manage that violent, intoxicated patient alone until security gets there–if security gets there.
Nurses are the hospital caregivers most likely to be assaulted.
Nurses persuade that psychiatric patient to stick with the program.
Nurses persuade a poor young mother to save her baby’s life through prenatal visits and breastfeeding.
Nurses provide adequate pain medication for terminal patients and the opportunity to die at home.
Nurses provide expert support in your final hour.
Nurses teach you how to avoid getting AIDS, and how to live with it if you do.
Nurses subtly show the sickest patients that it’s worth trying, perhaps by discussing Harry Potter with the young leukemia patient, or watching a few minutes of the news with that despondent, elderly post-op patient.
Nursing students spend years in demanding science programs that test their sanity and cause some to quit or fail.
Nursing scholars struggle to get grants, publish groundbreaking research and get tenure.
Nurses serve as the chief executive officers of large hospitals.
Nurses spearhead efforts to help your teenage son not start smoking.
Nurses deliver babies in U.S. teaching hospitals and mountain villages in Bolivia.
Nurses provide much, if not most, of the health care given by aid groups with names like Doctors Without Borders.
Nurses explain what that physician was trying to communicate–saving countless lives.
Nurses, as commissioned officers, manage complex military care operations around the world.
Nurses found and run new health systems for underserved urban and rural communities–saving countless lives.
Nurses confront disruptive physician behavior, life-threatening nurse short-staffing, and bitter class divisions and horizontal violence within their own profession.
Nurses go on strike.
Burned-out nurses explode and quit.
Nurses train and mentor nursing students and new nurses.
Nurses kick intoxicated surgeons out of the OR and fight to have surgeons who are dangerous removed permanently.
Nurses refuse to give drugs that will hurt that fetus, or any other patient.
Nurses risk their careers to blow the whistle on deadly incompetence.
Nurses make mistakes and kill people, especially when they are understaffed or exhausted.
Nurses regularly have intense interactions with physicians about patient care. For instance, nurses may identify symptoms physicians have overlooked, and they may struggle to convince physicians that those symptoms exist.