From May 6 to 12, it's National Nurses Week in the United States and from May 11 to 17, 2009, it's National Nurses Week in Canada.
Nursing is a funny profession. Reactions to nurses range from "only an idiot would choose to be a nurse" to "only very special people can be nurses." Well, I'll tell you - I've met some people I would say are idiots and I wonder how they get their nursing license and I've met some nurses who truly qualify as someone very special. But, for the most part, nurses are like everyone else. We're people, w have our good days and our bad days. We do our best but we make mistakes. We laugh, we cry, we stress and we relax - we're people with a serious job and we hold lives in our hands.
What ticks me off the most as a nurse? People who STILL think that we're doctor wannabees, that we're doctor hand maidens. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nursing and medicine are two completely different professions. Doctors tend to look at specific problems that need curing, healing, or treatment. Nurses see the patients as a whole, and they see the issues that surround the treatments.
A good example is a patient who is in traction after breaking a leg. The doctor operates on the leg and orders the traction, as well as pain medications. It's the nurses who take care of the whole patient - they evaluate and assess the patient for problems related to not moving around. This can cause pressure sores on the skin, constipation, poor nutrition, social isolation and more.
It's the nurses who see the patients 24 hours per day. It's most often the nurses who pick up on the slightly elevated temperature getting a bit higher. Or a slight change in an agitated patient's behaviour. It's the nurses who will see that Mrs. Jones hasn't eaten well for the past couple of days, that Mr. Smith isn't handling his crutches as well as he did last week, and that little Katie is depressed because her parents are fighting while she's in the hospital.
Nurses do follow doctors' orders, but nurses also have a lot of leeway in how they handle certain situations. It's the nurse who decides if a patient's change in condition warrants calling a doctor, for example, or is it something he or she can handle alone?
And don't forget another very important role that nurses have. We're the final layer between you and the doctor. Like nurses, doctors are human. They make mistakes. If a doctor makes a mistake in ordering a medication for you, the wrong dosage or the wrong type, it's the nurse who catches it. He or she can't miss it. If the doctor ordered 100 mg of morphine, 10X the usual dose, and the nurse gives it - it's the nurse who gets into trouble. The nurse should know that you don't give 100 mg of morphine.
If a doctor orders that a dressing be changed once a day and the nurse notices that the wound really needs to be cleaned and redressed more than that - he or she must pass this on to the doctor. It's the nurses' responsibility that the wound be addressed by the doctor because that is the nurses' role - among many others.
Yes, there are bad nurses out there. There are some nurses who started out great but burned out, or they never were that good to begin with. But there are teachers, police officers, administrative assistants, plumbers, electricians, and so on who also fall into that category.
Most nurses are good at what they do and they're doing it because they want to. Nurses are among the very few professions who choose to work with people who are at their worst: in pain, stressed, scared. Be nice to a nurse. Please?