Celebrate Nursing!

This week has flown by and when I finally got the chance to sit down and write it seems appropriate that it is on Nurse’s Day.  It’s a good time for professional reflection. A few tidbits; National Nurse’s Week kicks off on May 6th and is celebrated until May 12th (Florence Nightingale’s birthday). Today kicks off the week with National Nurse’s Day. Nursing is such a vast and varied profession.  Nurses care for populations within the community, teach, work with children in schools, work in long-term and acute care settings, work in advanced practice and prescriptive roles, and do so much innovative research that impacts each of us and our families everyday.  It is the largest workforce in the US and in the world.  Nursing has continued to grow through research; in practice, and patient care responsibilities.

Medscape published an article starting with part 1 today titled What Happened to the Cap? The Dawn of the Cap.  It’s a big learning opportunity to explore Nursing’s past and the significant strides that were made and has led to where nursing is today.   I don’t have a Nursing cap, but for me, the cap, really symbolizes a unified profession.  When you walk into a hospital now it is very difficult to tell  the doctors, the nurses and the housekeepers apart sometimes.  It would be impossible to do the job that I do now in all whites, a dress, and a cap that is bobby-pinned in my hair- but there is level of respect that is achieved with that hat.

I started working in a nursing home as a nursing assistant when I was 17.  At that age I thought I wanted to get my BSN and go to medical school. When I was 20 I started working on a medical/surgical floor of a teaching hospital and I was sold. I knew then I wanted to be a nurse. I thought, like everyone does, that doctors did everything in the hospital.  The first time I witnessed a nurse think quickly and intervene in a patient’s declining status I realized afterwards, one human being had just saved the life of another.  I felt changed forever.

While I was still in college, I transferred to the ICU. The level of knowledge, expertise, advocacy, intelligence, skill, and caring I was surrounded by at work inspired me throughout my years of education.  Watching these experts care for patients, I saw first hand the impact that expert nursing care has on patient outcomes.  Watching nurses discuss hemodynamic treatments and medications for patients with sepsis, blood loss, cardiac and pulmonary contusions with the physicians at the bedside I realized that the nurses were teaching the residents in most situations.  When a patient would experience a cardiac or respiratory event needing CPR or intubation the nurses were the first to catch it. They were the first people at the bedside. They were first to intervene, start CPR, provide oxygen and rescue breathing.  Watching these situations taught me how to respond and act in an emergency. To this day I hold those early experiences very close – they are vital in my continued development as a professional nurse.

For me, professional validation, is seeing the care, hard-work, and contributions manifest into improved patient outcomes. Small successes: getting a patient out of bed for the first time and in a few days seeing them being able to tolerate walks in the hall; seeing a patient sleep comfortably for the first time since they were admitted because in combination with the MD prescriptions you were able to take their pain away; and after a long night of respiratory treatments and NT suctioning leaving work with the patient not having shortness of breath all mean a great deal in the overall feeling of success as a nurse.  Seeing that the work I do and efforts I make actually impact lives keeps me coming back to fight and advocate for each and every patient.

I take my role as a nurse very seriously and I get very excited and energized to continue to pass that knowledge on to new nurses entering the profession and specialty.  At this point in my career, being able to excite and empower nurses new to the ICU in the same way that I was inspired so many years ago is an important contribution that I want to continue to make.

I’m going to use this week to reflect on what situations and which patients brought me to nursing in the first place and who has been influential in making me want to stay. I invite all of you to share your stories as well.

Happy Nurses Week to my supportive and hard-working friends and coworkers across the country;  to the nurses who mentored and inspired me; I’m speechless as to the influence you had; and to the future nurses I will work with- I challenge you to embrace your education and training as you flourish and grow in this fantastic profession.

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