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My mom, who's elderly and takes a slew of medications for multiple health problems, has been in and out of the hospital lately. Mom encountered nursing at its best during those stays and I found abundant inspiration for my Nurses Week message.
Sitting with Mom, I reflected on the fact that good nursing is more than following orders, starting I.V. lines, and giving meds. Good nursing is also about communicating, collaborating, and advocating for the patient. Nurses ferret out nuggets of relevant information about their patients and apply their knowledge and experience to individualize patient care. That adds up to far more than the sum of completed nursing tasks.
For example, while the nurse caring for my mom in the ED was performing the necessary "tasks," she assessed Mom's condition from physical, cultural, familial, and emotional angles and adapted the care plan accordingly. Better yet, she taught Mom health lessons that might have fallen on deaf ears coming from me, her daughter.
Thankfully, studies are proving what a huge difference nurses make to patients when we have time to do our job well. But if we're to bring nursing out of the shadow of medical care, we must not only build on this body of literature, but we must also communicate the message. Unfortunately, though, articulating the essence of nursing is tough and many of us aren't comfortable blowing our own horns.
I highly recommend From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public by Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon. Besides helping you improve your relationships with patients and colleagues, this practical book offers tips and advice on public communication, including how to write letters to the editor or present a compelling case for our profession on TV or radio.
Nurses Week is a great time to tell your stories. Describe for lay journals, newspapers, other media, and even politicians how you saved a life, improved a life, or helped a terminally ill patient die free from pain and comforted by your presence. Personal details that illustrate your high-level thinking and interventions help teach the public what nursing is all about.
Wonderful nurses have managed my mother's care with skill and compassion. By sharing her experience with others, I help them understand what nurses really do.
This Nurses Week, I encourage you to speak up too. Give voice to the power of your work. It's up to us to get the word out.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN,BC, CMSRN, MSN
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