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Nurses…The Managers of Care

About everyone on this Earth knows a nurse, has a family member that is a nurse, or has encountered one at some point in their life. However, many do not know what it means to be a nurse. What exactly does a nurse do?

When asked this question, I often find it quite difficult to answer. A mere job description just does not do it [what occurs during our 12 hour shift] justice. Although there are many different levels of responsibility or degrees for the RN, the foundation of the duties are the same. My best answer to the question is that nursing is a 24-hour job that saves lives. Some of our duties to keep it simple includes administering medications, managing intravenous (IV) lines, communicating with physicians, education patients on prevention/disease management, and most of all caring for our patients and their families by providing emotional support. However, the extent of what we do goes so much beyond a few bullet points on a list. It goes beyond providing seven ginger ales and five packages of cheese crackers. If the doctor orders something dangerous or inappropriate for our patients, it is our responsibility to be able to recognize that. If a patient is having a procedure or surgery, it’s the nurses responsibility to make sure that patient is in the best position to have the surgery, notifying the surgeon if any medical history or lab results are alarming. It is our responsibility to understand patients baseline, to notice when it changes, and respond quickly. If a patient falls out of bed and harms themselves, we are responsible.

Hospitalized patients encounter physical therapist, respiratory therapist, doctors, social workers, and many more but the nurse is the one who spends the most direct time with patient. As what I like to call “the Managers of Care”, nurses are responsible for managing all the moving parts of the interdisciplinary team that helps to keep patients safe. The nurse will spend 12 hours examining your medications, cross-checking and double checking, looking at your history and labs, and go home hoping that he or she didn’t miss anything because we understand the importance of what we do. I still don’t think I have the best answer but what I do know is that my work is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. What does it mean to you to be a nurse?

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