By Jackie Medland
President/CNO, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital
A calling. Not just a job. A passion that can’t be ignored. Not for everyone. These terms have all been used to describe the complex clinical work – and truly art – of nursing. These descriptors – and many more – are all true, and reveal that caregiving requires much more than hand-holding – though that too is undeniably important. Nurses have brilliant minds, huge hearts and tough spirits. I know many nurses who defy simple description, and all deserve kudos for the demanding, complex work they do.
First of all, nurses show up – for their patients and each other – every single day. They work in exquisite concert within dynamic care teams that include physicians, therapists and assistants. Because their tasks aren’t isolated, they must follow well-defined care protocols within the context of ever-changing patient conditions. Nurses assess, plan how to treat patients, provide informed interventions, and evaluate the effects of interventions. They also read subtle – but important – cues. Nurses learn to be acutely attuned to their patients’ changing needs, which can be reflected as much in a sigh or grimace as in a verbal request for help. They take into account every patient’s unique medical history, condition, and emotional needs, which can be as diverse as the sunsets we enjoy on our beautiful plateau. They manage their patients’ care in the face of competing priorities.
Nurses are lifelong learners. To that end, a national initiative created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine, the Future of Nursing Report, was created to set goals that will transform the nursing profession – and healthcare itself. Many of these goals involve education, such as more baccalaureate-prepared bedside nurses, residencies to ease graduates into a complex field, and doctoral-prepared nurses to teach our nurses of tomorrow. The Report also emphasized the need to have nurses functioning at the “top of their license,” or working to the full extent of their education and clinical training. This is especially true for Advanced Practice Nurses, whose responsibilities, such as writing prescriptions, can be limited by narrow state regulations. Finally, the Report addresses the current and anticipated nursing shortage by devising ways to attract and retain nurses, and diversify the profession.
Nurses are not just at the bedside. Beyond providing hands-on patient care, nurses serve as care managers, quality and safety coordinators, clinical managers, Chief Nursing Officers, and in numerous other leadership positions within health systems (including mine!). Nurses’ work, needs, and challenges weave throughout every level and aspect of care. The Report advises that if nurses – the largest sector of the healthcare workforce – exercise their natural clinical leadership, at the bedside, in the board room, and at the policy level, they’ll be positioned to transform healthcare throughout our nation.
I see brilliance and competence co-existing with care and compassion in our nurses every day at HCH, ELC, and our affiliated practices. It’s no coincidence that the icon of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, was also a statistician and social reformer. Next month we’ll celebrate our extraordinary nurses with scheduled educational events, festivities, and a gift, courtesy of gifted photographer Richard Cole and Mountain Garden Club member Gina Dunwody.
Next time you meet one of our many wonderful nurses, please thank them for making our community stronger and healthier!