The nurses week theme this year on the posters from the American Nurses Association is Trusted to Care. The slogan and theme are on posters around my hospital and, I imagine, many others. When I first read it, it seemed a little ambiguous and insincere. After I stopped, read it again, and really thought about it; I realized it really captures the essence of the profession. It is an intangible slogan used to describe a undescribeable profession.
Nursing has always been characterized as both an art and a science. One component of the job is very textbook, based completely in science, research; and having a solid understanding of the functions of the cells, organs, and tissues in the body and how they are affected by medication. A completely different component of the job, the art of nursing, is very psychosocial and personal: bathing, toileting, skin and wound care, talking, listening, life’s endings and beginnings, prayer, hope, counseling, educating, and laughing. Small reflections of just what makes nursing an art form, these pieces are what most patients and families visualize and experience. They are what is most frequently portrayed in the media.
After reading and rereading the slogan “Trusted to Care,” for me, the words elicited certain feelings, all of them good and forced some professional introspection.
Trust has a more solidified definition and understanding. How do you really define the act of caring or providing care for someone? I refer to Merriam Webster:
Definition of CARE1: suffering of mind : grief2a : a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibilityb : a cause for such anxiety3a : painstaking or watchful attentionb : maintenance <floor-care products>4: regard coming from desire or esteem6: a person or thing that is an object of attention, anxiety, or solicitude
Definition of CAREintransitive verb1a : to feel trouble or anxietyb : to feel interest or concern <care about freedom>2: to give care <care for the sick>3a : to have a liking, fondness, or taste <don’t care for your attitude>b : to have an inclination <would you care for some pie>transitive verb1: to be concerned about or to the extent of <don’t care what they say> <doesn’t care a damn>2: wish <if you care to go>
When you break down the different aspects of nursing care all of those definitions are applicable. Caring for someone is seen in the love and time that we give to those closest to us. Providing care for someone is an intimate process. Work done by parents, children, spouses, significant others and friends when we are sick or vulnerable and need help. Humanity provides sympathy and empathy for the sufferings of our fellow humans but so rarely are we asked to care about those people that we do not know. Nurses do this on a daily basis. The asking of nurses to care is never spoken, it is the expectation that we do. The part that really is a surprise to some, I think, is that we really do care about our patients, their families, and their health outcomes. The care we provide as nurses is very personal. We take the outcomes of our patients personal as well. Positive and negative, we internalize the steps our patients make.
In the ICU, I provide care to people everyday who are too sick and vulnerable to take care of themselves. For me, the truly extraordinary part is that I don’t know them. So frequently, I come into my patient’s room for the first time, introduce myself and help them to the bathroom, clean them up, give them rectal medication and even talk with them about the most personal details of their lives, illness, and injuries that have brought them into the hospital. It amazes me on a daily basis the trust we, as nurses, expect our patients and their families to have; and that without question and hesitation, they give it.
Every December Gallup does a poll on the most honest and ethical professions and has included nurses for the last 11 years. Every year but one (2001), nurses have ranked #1, far and above every other profession. I’m not surprised that nurses are viewed as the most honest and ethical of professionals. I see it everyday in the questions I’m asked, the trust I’m given, and thank yous I receive.
A few years ago I had my gallbladder removed and had a very short experience as a surgical patient. My surgery was performed at the hospital where I was employed and done by a surgeon i worked with professionally. When I woke up from anesthesia I was in the outpatient recovery center. My nurse caring for me post-op was really good. I don’t remember her name, I do remember she was really chatty 🙂 . As my post-operative period progressed and before I was allowed to go home; I had to be able to go to the bathroom. I am a VERY modest (to the point of prudish) person. It cracks up many people that really know me just how uncomfortable I am talking about most body functions, so the idea of having to go to the bathroom in front of someone, even as I’m writing this, makes me blush. Though I do this professionally, nearly on an hourly basis without problem- when it comes to me being the patient I am very easily embarrassed. Because I was still unsteady on my feet, She had to wait in the small bathroom with me- we chatted, all while I hoping for nature to take its course. It eventually did, and I went home. Even in a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated, outpatient surgery it was still the unspoken and unwritten permission that this nurse needed, and I gave her, to help take care of me.
I think the ambiguity of the slogan “Trusted to Care” is really perfect in trying to describe the beautiful work and care that nurses provide in such a vast profession.
Every shift I work I am conscious of my expectation for my patients and their families to trust my experience, training, knowledge, and skill without question. As I have matured and grown as a nurse I do everything I can to not take it for granted and I make sure to let them know that I don’t.