Have you ever heard this dialogue?
“What do you do?”
“I’m just a nurse.”
The “just” part of this answer implies that being a nurse is not an important job. There are few careers more crucial to patients’ health than nursing. Nurses are the only professionals who are at the bedside 24 hours a day. We need to know what we are doing. Here’s seven things to think about before you answer the question, “What do you do?”
1. You are more than the tasks you perform.
Taking a blood pressure, changing a dressing or inserting a catheter takes knowledge and skill. A nurse needs to know when and why to perform these interventions and what to do with the information gathered. Nurses have to be vigilant in picking up subtle changes in patients’ conditions.
2. You teach and encourage patients to care for themselves.
When people are unable to care for themselves, you give them the care they need. You teach patients who are recovering from serious illness or injury how to become independent again.
3. You counsel patients who are sad or in crisis.
Whether you are giving a medication or performing a physical assessment, you take every opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with your patient. That is why your patients can share their feelings with you to recover both physically and emotionally.
4. You advocate for patients and their families when they cannot advocate for themselves.
Remember the physician who resisted giving analgesics to the patient in pain? You were the one who convinced that doctor to give the patient adequate pain medication.
5. You coordinate patients’ care so that they get everything they need when they need it.
How many times have you coordinated the patients’ care so they could get a xray, participate in physical therapy and eat meals when they needed to?
6. You are an important consultant for your patients.
You are the first person any one on the health care team consults with to find out the condition of your patients. You consult with other members of the health care team so the patient receives the highest quality care possible.
7. You make changes in the health care system you work in to benefit patients.
Your patient waited to receive pain medication because of a flaw in the system. You take action so no other patient will experience the same problem.
So next time you are asked, “What do you do?”, answer with pride, “I’m a registered nurse.” Then educate them about what being a nurse is all about.