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You Are Not "Just a Nurse"

You Are Not "Just a Nurse"

Kathy Quan

July 07, 2010

I recently viewed a terrific video interview on Nursing Ideas TV with Suzanne Gordon who has authored several terrific books for nurses such as Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care.

Gordon was passionately discussing the subject of what nurses really do and how nurses tend to trivialize their job as being “just a nurse.” She is angry about this trivialization and encourages nurses to examine what they do each day because they are the backbone of the health care system and need to stand up and be recognized for it.

Nurses are characterized as angels, hand holders, and graphically depicted with hands-to-hearts. This is only a part of what nurses are and do. Nurses save lives, they educate patients and families, they advocate for patients and they save the health care industry millions of dollars everyday. They are key members of the health care team and without them, the health care system would fail.

What Do Nurses Do?

In some ways I think this stems from the fact that we get asked all the time, “what do nurses do?” With so many aspects and career paths, this is such an enormous task to answer and do it justice, that we tend to down play and trivialize the job. It’s just plain easier to minimize things than to explain that it depends on what kind of nursing you do.

The other question that drives me crazy is “what is a typical day like for a nurse?” There is NO such thing as a typical day for a nurse! Every day is different because the patients are different as are the challenges and the potential for crisis.

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No Such Thing as a Typical Day for a Nurse

There are some things that don’t change. You go to work, you do your job. You spend the day averting one crisis after another. You hold a few hands during painful procedures or bad news. You get yelled at by angry patients, doctors and/or family members. You document it all and you go home feeling like there was so much more you should have done but didn’t have time to do.

These are pretty much the constant factors in any given day along with the fact that you must always be alert to expecting the unexpected at the most inopportune moment of the day! But does this really give someone an idea of what it’s like to be a nurse?

People don’t want to hear about how many bedpans we served up and emptied, the vomit, urine and feces we cleaned up, the number of times we had to poke the obese man to get an IV line in so we could give him that life-saving medication, or how we sat with a dying patient while she transitioned from her mortal body. They want to hear about happy things. The truth is nurses do all of this and ever so much more.

Next: The Things Nurses Really Do >>

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