South Florida Hospital News
Sunday August 25, 2019
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May 2008 - Volume 4 - Issue 11

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Gratitude to Nursingís ĎOtherí Heroes

The birth of Florence Nightingale in May, 1820 is honored each year with Nurses Week. Itís a time for Americans to recognize the contributions of nurses, who provide an array of services and support to clients, families and communities.

Most Americans consider nurses those who work in direct patient care hospitals or agencies, and who typically wear white uniforms and white shoes to work. These nurses work long hours providing care to those who are injured, stricken with disease or cancer, preparing to die, or recovering from a procedure or intervention.

I too am grateful for the contributions these nurses make to the healthcare of friends and family members. But while I applaud their dedication and commitment to the profession, I also want to recognize those nurses who arenít involved in direct patient care, yet who also make a difference for the profession.

One such group is nurse educators. They teach the next generation of nurses who need a variety of teaching strategies in order to understand the basics of nursing, but who must also learn how to critically think about that information and research in order to provide the best and safest care. Nurse educators not only must teach a classroom of students, they must take students to clinical settings and supervise their applications of this knowledge as they develop skills in patient assessment and therapeutic interventions, while making sure students donít harm patients or irritate staff. Itís a challenge, as students are spread across several units in a clinical setting and faculty must learn to navigate that particular system, interact with staff nurses and physicians, while meeting the needs of each student.

It takes patience and an excitement about teaching others to find this job rewarding. Imagine watching a student catheterize a patient for the first time, making sure everything remains sterile, the patient is comfortable, and the student is directing the catheter in the right place, making sure urine stays in the tubing. What takes an experienced nurse about 3 minutes takes the nursing student at least 15 minutes Ė if you donít count the first 5 minutes of meditation. All the while the nurse educator is checking their body language and voice tone so that neither the student nor the patient realizes that so much could go wrong, and yet with confidence the student will be faster and more efficient the next time. At the end of the day, the other students are in awe of the successful catheterization and appreciate the small milestone they have made on their way to becoming a "real" nurse.

With every clinical experience more is expected, and more is at stake as students assume more responsibility for patient care. With the nurse educatorís guidance, students learn to put together the medical interventions, drug administration and actions, and the physiological and psychological reactions the patient has while undergoing these treatments.

Nurse researchers are also a group of nurses who deserve special consideration. They create teams to investigate causes, relationships, and interventions for a number of diseases, situations, and conditions. They are methodical in writing proposals that are funded, gathering data that is statistically analyzed, and reporting their findings in publications and in presentations. It doesnít sound very exciting until you realize the work of some of these researchers. For example, the symptoms of women who experience heart attacks are now understood by consumers and healthcare providers because a nurse researcher studied this for over a decade.

The first researcher to study how dementia patients can complete their activities of daily living was a nurse. There are hundreds of examples of how patient care has been improved because nurses have conducted the research to find linkages and solutions that promote optimal health while minimizing pain, stress, and knowledge deficits. There is a National Institute for Nursing Research because nurses continue to conduct studies on an array of health issues across the life span, and their findings inform medical practice as well as nursing standards of care.

We should also recognize the nurses who continue to provide direct patient care services. It takes real commitment to provide care to everyone who needs nursing care. Nurses provide healthcare to patients who are considered disenfranchised, and they are the ones who need the most care. These populations include the mentally ill, addicted, imprisoned, aged, poor, homeless, noncompliant, and those with incurable diseases. These populations also take patience, competence, commitment, and optimism. Also, it can be very discouraging to provide care to populations who donít really appreciate the care, wonít accept the care, will ignore the instructions, or just canít understand that care is needed. Yet, every day, nurses continue to provide care to people of all ages, races, religious belief, and economic status. Thatís what it means to be a nurse Ė caring no matter what.

Nurses have the opportunity to work in direct patient care environments, but can also make significant contributions to the profession in other ways. All these are valued and necessary if the profession is to grow and meet the needs of all we serve. The knowledge the researchers discover is of great benefit to patients, cutting length of stays and improving outcomes. Nurse educators sometimes sacrifice their own need for clinical competence while focusing on the needs of their students. They are sharing what they know with students in order to better prepare them for the world of nursing after graduation.

Their contributions are just as important as those of the nurse who saves the life of a patient. They are all nursing heroes and deserve a special note of gratitude for their contributions to the profession Ė whether they touch a patient or not.

Dr. Pegge Bell, Dean of Barry Universityís School of Nursing, can be reached at (305) 899-3840 or pbell@mail.barry.edu.
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