What is nursing?

IMG_0435Too often, on my ortho floor with post surgical patients, nursing is mostly passing meds, recording PCA settings, and checking off boxes in the electronic medical record. Yesterday I got back to the heart of why I do what I do.

Nursing is patient advocacy. It’s knowing that the aspirin ordered for this morning must be a mistake, since my patient is going to surgery later. And calling the doc, checking the order, and making sure it’s held until appropriate to restart. It’s hearing that my patient expects to go to radiation and see a wound care nurse, but noticing that neither are ordered. It’s calling the doc and making sure those orders are placed and followed through.

Nursing is recognizing that a patient’s pain meds are not sufficient, and getting orders for something more effective. It’s calling occupational therapy to insist that my patient be seen first so we can process the referral to rehab.

It’s sitting down with a patient who doesn’t understand what spinal infarction means. Holding her hand, and explaining the physiology, prognosis, and treatment options. It’s teaching her to advocate for herself – to refuse medications she doesn’t want, to communicate her goals and priorities. It’s finding a safe way to get a non-ambulatory patient into the shower, because that is her biggest goal for the day. And that makes her feel whole.

Nursing is receiving a frightened patient after her mastectomy and helping her get out of bed for the first time. Put on clothes for the first time. Understand what the doctor meant when she said, “metastasis.”

It’s walking that fine line between hope and realism – when the two seem both intertwined and mutually exclusive. It’s holding a patient’s hand when she learns she will probably never walk again.

That was my yesterday. That’s why I became a nurse. And that’s what keeps me going on days when my 12+ hours are filled with little more than med passes and box-checking.


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