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Top lesson I have learned as a nurse

Date: April 25, 2016

Bridget Welker: Be Your Patients’ Lifeline

Welker BridgetAs a nurse, you are the patients’ advocate; you are their lifeline. We live in a world where productivity is priority number one. It is all about the numbers. Doctors are pressured to see “x” number of patients per day. This push leads to poor patient care and, sometimes, medical errors. Nurses have a unique opportunity to counter balance this issue.

It is our responsibility to pick up on that drop in blood pressure, that hypoactive bowel pattern, that increase in respiration rates. Our patients look to us to listen to their concerns, assess their complaints and be the voice that someone will respond to. Our job is all encompassing in regards to the patient’s well-being. I never realized the impact I could have on a person’s life until one day when I encountered a previous patient out in public. He told me that he thought of me as his angel. He praised me on the care I provided him and appreciated how I advocated for his concerns. He truly felt that I was the main catalyst in his recovery. So bottom line, be your patients’ lifeline. We are so much more to them then “the nurse.”

Peggy Flannigan: Let ‘caring’ take a front seat

Peggy FlanniganNurses are taught to work efficiently. I was taught to be efficient in every phase of patient care. For example, when planning my cares in an isolation room, I was taught that it was most efficient if I planned ahead for all care that I would be providing during a given “trip” inside. Once in full isolation garb (personal protective equipment or PPE), it certainly was not efficient to realize that I forgot something and have to take off all my PPE to go collect the missing items.

When making a patient’s bed, I was taught to make the bed completely on one side and then move to the other side to finish. This approach saves steps on those feet that will be tired by the end of the shift.

Those are things I was taught, but here is what I learned:

Efficiency is important but not if caring takes a back seat. Of course, it is important to plan ahead when caring for patients in isolation. But, I’ll always remember my patient on neuro rehab who was a quadriplegic and had been in isolation for what seemed like months. His family lived too far away to visit more often than on weekends. After efficiently working through my regular cares, he asked if I could wash his hair. I thought, “Really? You mean I have to take off all this stuff and go gather the equipment for a bedside shampoo, gown up again and plan on another half hour?” Then it hit me: This man was relying on me for all his needs. The least I could do was wash his hair and do so gladly. When I went back in the room and began the shampoo, he told me it was his first shampoo in literally ages. He didn’t want to rely on me, and I certainly wouldn’t have traded places with him for anything. Efficiency? It went out the window that day, but caring landed squarely in the front seat, hopefully to stay.

Rachel Borton: Do your best and learn from your mistakes

Rachel BortonFrom the time I was very little, I was taught by my parents to give 110 percent to everything that I attempted in life. My grandmother was a nurse, and I wanted to be just like her. When I started nursing school, I quickly realized it would take 110 percent of perspiration to achieve an 80 percent academically!

When I started working as a nurse, I tried to do everything perfectly at a 110 percent. After my first mistake, I was broken-hearted and felt like a failure. I figured I needed to step up my “trying.” It was not until I was working as a new FNP that my collaborating physician talked some sense into me. He welcomed me and told me immediately that I would learn from him and he would learn from me. No one is perfect; we all make mistakes — it’s how you learn from those mistakes that makes all the difference.

And then I realized, I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to try my best. I won’t always be right, and that’s okay. What a relief! It was okay for me to tell my patients that I was not exactly sure what was going on, that I could give suggestions and also refer them to a specialist — and that was not only acceptable but anticipated.

Cindy Brubaker: Enjoy this fulfilling career

Cindy BrubakerWhen I chose to become a nurse, I had never worked in a hospital or any other part of health care. I was 19 years old and had decided to switch from social work to nursing. I was amazed at how happy that made my mom and dad! I guess they really wanted me to be assured of a job.

I chose a diploma school, so I finished in three years and was offered a job on a busy medical surgical floor. My “ah-ha” moment came soon after I started working as a real nurse. I remember that it hit me after an extremely busy day as I was reporting off to the next team of nurses. The job did not feel like “work” to me. During high school, I had worked in a factory and as a waitress in a truck stop. Those were work. Nursing wasn’t anything like those jobs. I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. Even on the days when I realized that I hadn’t taken a break in eight hours, I was happy and content. Wow, nursing was not just a job and a paycheck, it was an adventurous and fulfilling career!

Janet Jackson: Build relationships with patients and their families

Janet JacksonI graduated from an ADN program when I was 19 years old and took a position in a busy critical care unit at a university medical center. Those patients were so sick and had so many needs physically and emotionally. Along with those patients came their distraught families. It was a challenge for me as a young, new RN. But, those patients and their families taught me so much! I loved learning about all the pathophysiology, pharmacology and treatments for those patients, and I continue to relish that component of my practice.

But back to those patients and their families — my biggest lesson was learning that the needs of those patients and families were not always what we, the nurses, thought. Their crisis may not have seemed like a crisis to us, but to them, it was and it was very real. As nurses, we have to work to build relationships with our patients and their families by listening to them and supporting them. For all my love of the science of nursing, the best part is truly those relationships and meeting those needs of my patients and their families.

Molly Cluskey: Believe in yourself

Molly CluskeyNursing has always been a good career for me. I have worked in hospitals, health departments and offices, as well as traveled and stayed home with children. I have worked days and nights, full-time, part-time and sometimes just weekends. I have always had a job when I needed one and have always loved the jobs and the people. Nurses are good people.

I had the opportunity to attend graduate school. I dreamed of being a staff educator yet lacked the expertise. I enjoyed the classes and was fascinated with those on educational theory. My advisor asked me one day if I would like to stay in school a few more years and work on a doctoral degree. Would I like to do what she does — teach nursing? “Oh my,” I thought, “I couldn’t teach nursing.” I had only worked part-time and weekends while raising children.

“Okay,” she said, “I guess you are only half as smart and only know half as much as those nurses who work full-time.” Point made. I stayed in school, completed my doctoral degree and obtained my first job as an educator. I am a good nurse, and I did have knowledge and skills to share. It took a teacher and mentor to support and guide me. Now, I am here to pay it forward.

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