In nursing there are some assumptions that are not a true reflection of what we do, these presumptions may come from a lens that is an unintentional understanding of what nursing really is.
Although statements that are randomly said to nurses can have an impact where our role feels a little devalued and can make our own sense of our roles have less meaning.
Here are 4 common assumptions that are made of Nursing-
1. A Nurse Is ‘Just A Nurse’ –
Hearing someone say you’re ‘just a nurse’ is devaluing, healthcare as an industry is evolving incredibly fast and nurses are becoming more and more specialised within our roles. We obtain qualifications in either undergraduate or post graduate education to become health professionals, we are taught to deliver health care that integrates evidence based practice from research which guides our on the job clinical expertise.
Even when I hear nurses say ‘I’m just a nurse’, it feels as though we have adopted this narrative. In our role we do so much- we assess, we care, educate and advocate for patients.
Also, generalising that ‘nurses are just nurses’ forgets how many roles are present within our profession, no two roles in nursing are the same. Each role may require different knowledge, specific skills, different technologies and care interventions, for example – an Oncology nurse & Intensive care nurse have very specific but different roles.
To become qualified as either an Enrolled nurse, Registered nurse or Midwife, we must meet standards that qualify us to be registered to practice by the NMBA (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia) & APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency).
Once we learn the fundamentals of nursing we then can advance into different pathways within one of the 5 domains of nursing- Clinical, Education, Management/Leadership, Research or as a Nurse Practitioner.
2. You’re A Nurse, Which Hospital Do You Work At?
Patient centred care involves working collaboratively with many health professionals in a variety of settings. A large amount of health and social care is provided in the community away from the hospital setting and this could involve the person requiring care in acute, non-acute, chronic or palliative care – with the assistance from families and support services.
There are many places that nurses can work in, here is a list of some of the places nurses work-
– Community in home based settings,
– Cruise ships,
– Prison nursing,
– Rural nursing,
– Residential/Nursing homes,
– Army or Navy,
– Sporting events,
– Flying Doctors service, etc.
3. ‘Nurses Just Sit At The Nurses Station Talking On The Phone’ OR ‘All They Do Is Look At The Computer Screens’ –
Personally when I hear this assumption said out loud, I feel deflated, here are some examples of what nurses may be doing behind the ‘nurses station’-
- A doctor may prescribe a medication but nurses have to determine whether it is safe to administer a medication, for example- a patient may have a low blood pressure, yet a nurse has to judge whether the medication for hypertension (high blood pressure) can be given safely. Giving that medication without checking may drop the persons blood pressure further and in turn a medical emergency may occur.
- If you see a nurse behind a nurses station on the phone, looking at a computer screen or reading paperwork- they may be checking previous orders, checking for blood results or other test results, making sure referrals to health professionals/services have been made etc. A lot of information is exchanged via computers and telephones, they are essential communication tools.
- The responsibilities of appropriate communication is a massive part of nursing to receive all the varied amount of information correctly, its important to minimise interruptions at this time as to reduce any communication errors. If you see a nurse talking to a doctor or another health professional they may be receiving verbal instructions on how to manage a patients care, or if you see a few nurses together they may be having a verbal handover at shift change.
Managing patient care does happen at the bedside but it occurs on the ward as well, nurses are constantly assessing a patient or a circumstance by using critical thinking to help their decision making process.
4. Night Nurses Do Nothing Because Patients Sleep All Night –
Many hospitals with an Emergency department attached are open 24/7- a hospital has many operational functions that occur to provide healthcare needs to anyone that needs it. People are admitted into hospital at any time therefore patient flow needs to run smoothly as well. Here are examples of the work that happens during the night in hospitals –
- Emergency departments are open and run around the clock, where anyone can seek urgent medical care and treatment.
- Operating theatres are available and continue running till late therefore surgical schedules need to be maintained.
- Midwifes are delivering babies and caring for mothers.
- Intensive care units attentively provide specialised treatments for these that require life support and critical care.
- Ward nurses are ever present to meet healthcare needs of patients in acute, sub-acute or palliative care settings.
- Doctors are making life changing decisions and attend to patients that need urgent attention.
- Radiology services are often on stand by for when they are required.
- The ever present awesome cleaners- they quietly pass through the hospital and without them we would not be able to maintain patient flow throughout a hospital.
Healthcare never takes a break, we work in a vast system with many different roles and these roles have many different responsibilities. I can’t compare to other industries as my experience is only within healthcare, yet to diminish or undervalue our role leaves a feeling of a job that is not meaningful.
Being a ‘nurse’ is not a one-size fits all model, when people examine our role it’s important to have a little understanding of how nurses spend their days, this might not be immediately obvious at first glance. Yet as an individual at the end of the day a nurse faces many rich experiences and that gives a lot of meaning to the many roles within nursing.