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What exactly does a nurse do?

Nursing duties include communication, bedside care, administering medications, delegating tasks and recognizing signs and symptoms of problems, issues and complications. There are a variety of educational requirements for entry level into nursing.

LPNs or LVNs are entry level nurses who must work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN).  LPNs have comparable job duties, though in many states they are not allowed to give certain medications or hang intravenous fluids.  Most LPNs receive 1 year of training after high school in community college or technical school.

ADNs are nurses who have learned nursing skills in a 2 year program, but do not have a formal college degree.

BSNs are nurses who have learned nursing skills and theory plus critical thinking in a variety of subject matter.

All 3 types of degree offer a path into nursing, however care may be very different.  The technical nursing skills can be learned by just about anyone. In fact, it is part of the nurse’s job to transfer these technical skills to patients and families at discharge in the hospital.

The critical insight of the nurse is the most essential element of having a nurse at the bedside. Knowing when to apply technical skills and knowing when something isn’t within the normal expected parameters is the art of nursing.

In the lifetime of a nurse over the course of a decade, they will care for over 10,000 patients.

At the core of nursing, we protect patients from the consequences as well as the treatment of illness.  Patients are in a vulnerable position when they are sick or undergo surgery for any reason. Nurses develop a relationship with patients and their families.  At the end of the day nurses save lives, prevent complications and alleviate suffering.

Many studies have established the link between nursing care and critical patient outcomes. Good nursing care can prevent infection, falls, pressure ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and even death.

In a less dramatic manner, nurses provide compassion and caring, which could quite conceivably be worth more than any other skill set they learn.

Caring is a learned skill and not a natural predisposition.  In fact people often equate caring with intense sensitivity or being very emotional.  These qualities don’t actually equal a good nurse. Being highly sensitive and emotional is exactly what nurses are trained NOT to be.  

Caring isn’t about experiencing every emotion the patient feels, it’s about listening and being able to empathize.  Empathy is a critical learned behavior that nurses are experts at using.

It’s the art and science of nursing that makes a nurse a highly valuable partner in care.  Sure, family members and caregivers can do the technical skills of nursing, but nothing can compare to the collective experience of caring for 10,000 patients.

Nurses are valued for this expertise, which cannot be transferred at the point of discharge from the hospital.  Having a nurse at your side after surgery is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.