Respect in Nursing

• No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this — ‘devoted and obedient.’ This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It would not do for a policeman.  Florence Nightengale, [1859]

I just read an article entitled “How to get the credit you deserve during Nurses Week”. Once again, I am angered and feel that nurses are being taken advantage of. The article quotes a person (with multiple letters and credentials after her name of course) “A nurse is valued for her ability to coordinate care among the team, when working with other disciplines, what does it say to the group that the nurse is the least educated among them?” The article went on to conclude that the only way for nurses to attain more respect from administration, patients, their co workers and the almighty physician, was to advance her education. Anyone surprised that this article was promoted by an online education program? that within the body of the article itself was a commercial for a school?

That single quote above, made me angrier than I have been in a long time. Do we work in a place where we walk around with bar codes on our chests, that if you scan them tells us our content including our educational status and expiration date? Because I do not hold advanced degrees that somehow makes me less credible and less worthy? really? The best nurse I know, the nurse I respect and admire beyond everyone, is a diploma nurse from Scotland. She has been doing this since she is 16 years old. And god bless her, she is of an age that you do not ask her age. I adore this woman, I respect her tremendously, and I use her as a resource. She has retained compassion and care as the core of her health care delivery method. She is an amazing nurse, and the best asset to our unit that we have. Everyone is thrilled she has returned to the ICU from cath lab.

The supposition that critical thinking skills can only be achieved via an institute of higher learning pontificating at me to the tune of 40K is ludicrous. I have respect in my work environment because I create an atmosphere of competency, compassion, knowledge, and approachability. I have respect from my coworkers because I treat others with respect. I have respect from the members of the health care delivery team because I demonstrate the ability to participate in the system. I educate myself on the disease processes of my patients, I become in tune with what is needed to help them along the path and assist them in their recovery. I act as a resource and help those around me. they are ALL our patients.

The role of the nurse in the health care team as I see it, is to interpret the physician’s orders, implement them, observe and evaluate, report back to the physician the results, and make recommendations based on those observations. It is the ultimate scientist. The physician sets up the theory, we observe for results.  You need to be able to ask questions, both of your patients and the doctor, in order to uncover the information needed to help the patient progress. The amazing bonus to this job, is we get to do this with people, not in some cold sterile lab. We are working with humans, full of all their complexities and emotions. We get to hug people and love them. This is why I became a nurse, because it is a profession that demands the combined usage of my brain and heart. The human component cannot be denied.

I am respected in my profession today, because I conduct myself in such a way that it cannot be denied. I do not hold any advanced degrees. I have an Associates of Science in Nursing. I have worked across many aspects of nursing, from direct patient care to administration. The reason I am respected for what I do, is I manifest competent compassionate care. I am able to discern what needs to be done in order to accomplish the goals for the patient. Whether that is discovering that the patient has nightmares from a bad childhood, thus she does not sleep well and has anxiety problems interfering with her recovery, or anticipating what information the physician will need during rounds and having that readily available for them. Have I had times where I am disrespected? Of course. We all have encountered that doctor who is “special”. However the majority of the time, I have discovered that it is because the doctor does not know me, therefore lacks trust in me. If I continue to demonstrate a primary focus of care and concern for the patient, combined with the ability to observe and report, respect comes. It is really that simple. And I do not need an advanced practice degree for that.


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