Do you ever find yourself struggling to explain nursing to others? I know I have. I could not always find the right words to adequately describe what I do. Until now. In 2003, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) published a document called, “Defining Nursing”, which summarized literature from the United Kingdom and other countries and reviewed comments from members of the International Council of Nurses about what nursing is.
“Defining Nursing” says nursing is “The use of clinical judgment in the provision of care to enable people to improve, maintain, or recover health, to cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever their disease or disability, until death.”
The RCN outlined these six core characteristics to further define nursing:
1. Nursing’s purpose:
Promote health, healing, growth and development
Prevent disease, illness, injury, and disability
Minimize distress and suffering
Enable people to understand and cope with their disease or disability, its treatment and its consequences
Maintain the best possible quality of life until its end
2. Nursing’s interventions:
Identify nursing needs
Empower people, and help them to achieve, maintain or recover independence
Are chosen through an intellectual, physical, emotional and moral process
Provide therapeutic interventions, personal care, information, education, advice, advocacy, physical, emotional and spiritual support.
Include direct patient care, management, teaching, policy and knowledge development.
3. Nursing’s domain:
People’s unique responses to and experience of health, illness, frailty, disability and health-related life events in whatever environment or circumstances they find themselves.
People’s responses may be physiological, psychological, social, cultural or spiritual, and are often a combination of all of these. The term “people” includes individuals of all ages, families and communities, throughout the entire life span.
4. Nursing’s focus:
On the whole person and human responses rather than a particular aspect of the person or a particular pathological condition.
5. Nursing’s base:
On ethical values which respect the dignity, autonomy and uniqueness of human beings, the privileged nurse-patient relationship, and the acceptance of personal accountability for decisions and actions.
These values are expressed in written codes of ethics, and supported by a system of professional regulation.
6. Nursing’s commitment to partnership:
Nurses work in partnership with patients, their relatives and other caregivers, and in collaboration with members of a multi-disciplinary team. Where appropriate, they will lead the team, prescribing, delegating and supervising the work of others. At other times they will participate under the leadership of others. At all times, they remain personally and professionally accountable for their own decisions and actions.
Now you can answer the question, “What is nursing?” using the shorter definition or explaining the six core characteristics provided by the RCN.