A few years ago I asked one of my sons what he thought nurses did.
He replied, “They help the doctors.”
I was more than a little disappointed with his answer. I obviously had not adequately explained what I did as a RN even to a member of my own family. Here is the story I told me son to help him understand what nurses do:
When I was 18 years old, I was riding in the front seat of a car involved in a head-on collision with a speeding car. I spent six weeks in the hospital flat on my back recovering from my injuries.
The doctors diagnosed my broken bones and performed surgery. They ordered the tests, medications and treatments so I could heal and be free of pain. I saw my doctor once a day for about five minutes.
The nurses lead a staff who watched me day and night, around the clock. They prevented complications from the treatment the physicians prescribed like bedsores and pneumonia from bed rest and constipation and falls from pain medication. They looked for any complications that might arise like infection in my surgical wound, clotting in my legs from bed rest and adverse reactions to the medications or blood transfusions I received. Had any of these occurred, they would have taken immediate action to prevent further problems and contacted my doctor for more or different treatment. They took over care I could no longer do myself like bathing and dressing. When I felt better and had trouble bathing myself with a cast on my arm, they showed me how. They listened and gave me emotional support when I wondered if I would ever walk again.
The nurses and doctors were equally important to my care. I would never have made a full recovery without either profession doing their jobs well. The nurses did not practice as if they were “helping the doctor.” The physicians were not thinking, “I’m just here to help the nurse.” Both professions did what they did best and worked together so I would receive the highest quality of health care possible.