Whether you’re at your doctor’s office for a wellness visit or at the hospital for a procedure, one of the first people you’ll meet is likely a nurse. We’ve all probably had interactions with nurses, but unless you’re a nurse, you may not fully understand their role or appreciate what they do for their patients.
The many sides of nursing
Just as there are many types of doctors, there are many types of nurses. Registered nurses hold a degree in nursing and a state license, nurse practitioners can take on some of the duties of primary care doctors, and certified nurse-midwives help in the delivery of babies.
Nurses work in many different settings. These include schools, medical offices, hospitals, and even prisons. Overall, nurses may work in fast-paced settings, caring for several patients at once, all with various and ever-changing medical needs. A nurse’s responsibilities (depending on their qualifications/credentials) may include:
- Performing physical exams and evaluating the overall health of their patients.
- Keeping a record of patients’ medical histories.
- Preparing and giving medicines and injections.
- Caring for wounds or other injuries.
- Reviewing test results and patient charts.
- Organizing patients’ care between healthcare professionals.
- Counseling and educating patients.
- Managing equipment and supplies, and other administrative tasks.
As if that isn’t enough, nurses also face other job-related challenges, such as:
- Long hours. It isn’t uncommon for nurses to work long shifts.
- Multitasking. Nurses deal with constant interruptions. On average, nurses are interrupted 10-14 times an hour. They also spend 34% of their time juggling several tasks at the same time.
- Injuries. Nurses may also be at risk for on-the-job injuries from having to perform repetitive movements, lifting patients, and standing for long periods of time. In a study comparing 98 different jobs, registered nurses ranked fifth for work-related injuries.
- Stress. The demands of nursing may lead to high levels of stress and can cause nurses to leave the field.
Nurses instill trust
As a patient, you want to be able to trust the person managing your health, treatment, and/or recovery. And despite working at a fast pace within a hectic work schedule, nurses still have time for that very important aspect of their job: building trust with patients.
In a Gallup survey, nurses hold the top spot in terms of honesty and ethics among various professions.
Nurses are in need
Nurses play a critical role in health care, especially since they are the caregivers who often spend the most time with patients, sometimes even more so than doctors. Believe it or not, the nursing profession is experiencing a shortage because:
- Lack of teachers available to teach nursing students.
- More nurses nearing retirement age.
- Increasing elderly population.
If this trend continues, the nursing shortage will soar in the next 20 years. According to a recent analysis, more than 800,000 positions for registered nurses will go unfilled nationwide by the year 2020.
Read what real nurses say about their field and their work:
“Nurses work with patients at every stage of life, administer and assess the effectiveness of treatments, and do so much more than care for patients. Nurses are teachers, advocates, counselors, critical thinkers, innovators, and leaders. I am proud to be a nurse. Nursing is an honorable and rewarding profession.”
Gene Gosselin, RN
“I think that something people don't understand about nurses is that we're concerned about you as an individual, not just a patient. We're assessing your physical health, your emotional health, your family involvement - or lack of it - and how all of these aspects impact your recovery.”
Eileen Rice, RN
“When nurses go home at night their work does not stop there. Nurses continue to think about their patients and ways to make them more comfortable and their recovery as easy as possible.”
Lisa Going, RN
Show your appreciation
Although rewarding, being a nurse is a demanding job. You can show your appreciation for all their hard work in many ways. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Write a heartfelt thank you note.
- Tell his or her supervisor about the positive experience you had.
- 1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing Shortage. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- 2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Your Nursing Career: A Look at the Facts. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- 3. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Listening to Nurses: Dissatisfaction and Burnout on the Job. Accessed April 10, 2017.
- 4. American Nurses Association. What Nurses Do. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- 5. DeLucia PR, Ott TE, Palmieri PA. Performance in nursing. In: Durso F, ed. Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society; 2009:1-40.
- 6. Galllup. Americans Rate Healthcare Providers High on Honesty, Ethics. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- 7. Hughes RG, Blegen MA. Medication administration safety. In: Hughes RG, ed. Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses: Vol 2. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2008:397-457.
- 8. Kalisch BJ, Aebersold M. Interruptions and multitasking in nursing care. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2010;36(3):126-132.