In the Rockhampton news, this week there was an ongoing discussion about the merits of university educated nurses versus hospital trained nurses. It was quite interesting to read some of the comments about what constitutes a good nurse.
So many people commented that you can’t teach caring and compassion in a university but you could to hospital “trained” nurses. It made me think about what the general public think that a nurse does and if the general public know just how well educated nurses are. It really makes me cross when I see all those cheesy Facebook posts that talk about nursing not being about grades and degrees but being able to sit with a dying patient and so on.
The most important role of the nurse is as a clinician. They are the ones that assess the patient, that spend the most time with the patient, that take the vital signs and act on them. They need to know the pathophysiology of the body and the normal and abnormal vital signs. They are the first to recognise the deteriorating patient and to act upon this. Nurses observe, interpret, assess and initiate treatment. They don’t just hold the hand of the dying patient and give out bedpans. Of course, they do this but this actually requires very little skill.
Being a patient advocate requires skill to navigate the minefield of egos that exist in a hospital. Nurses have to know about medications, how they work, what the side effects are, how to treat the patient if they have an allergic reaction. They must know about the latest in wound care treatments, this is a specialist subject all of its own. Nurses have to be able to educate new and novice nurses, they have to be able to educate patients and they have to interact with patients, their families, members of the allied health team, doctors and other nurses. They have to know and remember the legal requirements of their profession and of health care in general, they have to remember policies and procedures.
I “trained” in a hospital in the late seventies and I have very fond memories of those days, the camaraderie of the nurses home and the great adventure that it was. But I can honestly say that to be performing procedures on patients before you learnt how to do them was an adventure into the unknown. I went on and did a post registration Bachelor of Nursing and a Master of Bioethics as well as Midwifery and an ICU certificate.
There is a lot to being a nurse, I now teach nursing to nursing students at university. We want them to be safe practitioners, to be able to assess their patients and initiate treatment if they deteriorate, we want them to have compassion and to treat their patients with kindness and we want them to be strong patient advocates. To do this, firstly they have to know what it is they are doing.
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