What do nurses do?

What do nurses do? This question flashes a scene of a preschooler innocently asking an adult about something she is sincerely curious about. After all it’s what kids do. They ask when they don’t know and embrace an answer wholeheartedly without a shade of doubt.

Asking the right questions can lead us to the right answers in life. Though not all questions can be answered immediately or even in the long run, we still have to ask if we are to keep living for something.
As a high school student, I never did ask this question with utmost curiosity. I simple went with the flow of time. And thus I was led only to the answer when I was already in the middle of my Bachelor of Nursing education. For others, that might not be too bad. But for others, it’s a way big deal because people react to the same situation differently.

The point of the introduction is, a question in general as well as the answer to it is crucial in certain stages in life. A career question such as “what do nurses do?” for example is crucial to students fresh out of high school trying to decide whether to take up a Nursing degree or something else.
As a nurse, I want to give a wholistic answer to this question, especially to a high school student or graduating student. This article is for you.
So what do nurses do? Simple put, a nurse takes care of other people. Think and feel the words: help, assist, care, give time, aid, collaborate, communicate, educate, analyze, plan and decide almost every moment. All these relate to what nurses do.
  1. A nurse’s work is never routine. Because a nurse deals with varied situations and people, a nurse’s work varies depending on the patient’s need for that particular moment. For example, a new patient may need checking every 15 minutes in his first day in the hospital but after 3 days, he doesn’t need more than routine check every 4 hours.
  2. A nurse must have empathy. Because she cares for another, she must think of how she can help ease another person’s situation. That is have empathy. For example, in a clinical setting, before a nurse gives bedpan to patient, she must make sure the bedpan is not only clean but warm enough before its surface touches the patient’s skin.
  3. A nurse collaborates with others. There are many tasks that a nurse can do on her own.  These include giving health teachings, assisting a patient to move, giving the patient a back rub when he feels pain, counselling and providing options as necessary and many others. But, a nurse also needs to collaborate with doctors, pharmacists, medical technologists, dieticians, physical therapists, speech therapist and other members of the health team depending on the needs of her patient. For example, for doctors, there are orders that nurses perform such as in starting, adjusting  or stopping medications.
  4. A nurse thinks and decides fast. A nurse is a leader. She must be good in prioritizing, managing her time and making decisions that will yield good results for her patient. In making decisions, she must also do it fast because in Nursing and Medicine, even seconds are crucial to a patient’s life. In a matter of minutes, an unconscious patient who is not revived will have irreversible damage to his brain.
  5. A nurse must be flexible and open to learn. Because advances in Science come fast these days, a nurse must be willing to learn and also unlearn what she knew if something better for the patient comes in. There are times also when what she expects from a patient, a colleague or equipment is not met. In this case, she must know how to adapt.
  6. The nurse and the doctor. People who have not been exposed to the medical and allied professions may not fully understand the task of a nurse. Know that a doctor cures diseases, while a nurse takes care of a person’s reaction to a particular disease. Such as, when a patient has bleeding problems, the doctor takes care of medications that will prevent bleeding and its complications. A nurse thinks of ways to alleviate a patient’s discomfort with regards to the problem. She may prescribe soft bristled-toothbrush, provide food selections rich in Vitamin K, ensure that the patient take her medications, counsel on avoding activities that could wound the patient and teach on what to do on case bleeding occurs. Her approach is wholistic.
  7. A nurse does not only work in the hospital. Nursing is exciting because a nurse can choose to work in various settings and scenarios. Unlike the popular idea of a nurse in white uniform and syringe in her hand ready to inject a scared patient in the butt, a nurse doesn’t only work in a hospital setting. There are nurses in companies or occupational settings, nurses in the community settings, nurses doing research work and nurses in the academe. For the hospital setting, a nurse can choose to work with newborn babies, kids or pediatric patients, pregnant women, old people, patients in the operating room and patients with psychiatric problems. It’s all a matter of choice.


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