I am not a nurse, but I love working with nurses. I deal with nurses nearly every day in creating software used in training nursing students. After 20 years of learning from nurses and nursing educators, I’ve come to appreciate their qualities and their contributions to healthcare. So on National Nurses’ Day, here’s my 5-point take on the professional nurses I know and admire.
- Nurses have a heart and hands to help.
Almost every nurse I talk to either got into nursing to ‘help people’ or says that helping people is what keeps them in their very tough profession. Many people ‘want’ to help others, but nurses develop an ability to dig in.
- Nurses are focused critical thinkers.
Most nurses I know have a way of ‘cutting to the chase.’ I think this comes from listening to lots of life stories on the way to discovering the key health issues a patient may be facing. They have to sift through a lot of ‘stuff’ and come out on the other side with a clear picture of the patient’s priority problems. Novice nurses need a process that employs both listening and science. Expert nurses zero-in more seamlessly.
- Nurses balance science and art.
Medical science is constantly changing. Nurses have to keep up, so they must continually learn and apply new science. They must be quick and active learners, even after nursing school. Then there’s the art: advocating for patients and families; translating incredibly complex medical science into understandable information so patients and families can make informed decisions; providing care and comfort as well as medicine; tactfully dealing with outmoded ideas of nurses as hospital wait-staff rather than accomplished professionals who are key players in the healthcare system.
- Nurses are smart, and they are generous in sharing knowledge.
Many professionals in different fields I’ve encountered like to develop the ‘club’ mentality, and if you don’t speak the lingo of the club, they won’t share their knowledge with you. I don’t find that to be true with nurses. Because part of the practice of professional nursing is teaching, I find nurses eager to share information with patients and families. Nursing faculty have been very generous and patient in helping me as a non-nurse understand some of what they do. I see the same legacy of teaching within the nursing profession. A few years ago, we were at a hospice facility as a close family member’s life was drawing to an end. My husband’s aunt, who is a retired mental health nurse, visited at the same time some nursing students were assigned to the facility for a clinical rotation. In this time of deep personal difficulty, she took time to talk to the nursing students about what they were learning and to share some of her knowledge and experience. It was a ‘teaching’ session I hope those students never forget.
- Nurses love their work.
I messaged a friend who is a retired career nurse to wish her a happy nurses day. This friend had forgotten it was nurses’ day, but she replied, ‘Nursing is my first love. Never wanted to do anything else.’ Other nurses I know — including my sister-in-law and my career-Army father-in-law — came to nursing later in life, as a second or even a third career. Once they’re in the profession, they speak of nursing in a different way than they speak about other ‘jobs.’ Nursing becomes part of who they are.
Thank you, Nurses. Happy Nurses’ Day!
During Nurses’ Week, this blog will feature nurses who’ve made a difference in our work and in the lives of others. Stay tuned!