What do you tell people?

  1. Hi! This is the first thread I've posted......and I'm afraid it's a bit of a silly question, but I hope to get a couple of replies! I'm in a class right now where I had to read a couple of articles. One mentioned the fact that the public really doesn't know what nurses do......which makes it difficult for us to get all the respect we deserve, not to mention money!! Anyway, I think most nurses aren't in this profession for the 'glory', but what do you tell people when they ask you what you do? I of course tell them I'm a nurse, but if part of our problem is that the public doesn't understand what we do, then that's really not enough. I have one aunt (mid 70's in age) who insists that I'm only in this because I'm working my way to be an MD. I can't get her to realize they are different professions, nursing isn't a stepping stone to becoming a doctor. But I gave up trying because she's older and has a different idea of what nursing is, I'm sure. Now, this past weekend, a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in a while (29 years old, so age shouldn't be an issue!) asked me if I still work at the same place and if I was still doing "that nursing thing"! I told her I was, but I really should have explained that "that nursing thing" is part of who I am, my career! But if I had to explain the job, I honestly don't know what to say. I don't want to break it down to just the tasks I do, that doesn't seem right since nursing is much broader than what I do on one unit. Does anyone have a good answer to this question? One that describes the type of work we do and the education needed, and explains that it's more than bathing and toileting people, although that is obviously part of it? Like I said, I know this is a silly question, but I've been a nurse for 3 years, and still can't explain it to the point that people really understand what I do. Thanks for any help!!! :kiss
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   kimmicoobug
    I am not a nurse yet, so I can't give you any answers. I have graduated from my LPN year, so technically all I need is a job and a license. But, I am still a student and going for my RN. However,I totally agree with what to say we do. I think nursing is a dignified career, and I have total respect for the nurses I work with. However, what to tell my mom. She sees it something where you don't have to have a whole lot of brains to do. So, when I try to describe what a nurse does. I am also at a loss. One, because I am not one yet, and two because handing out meds and giving pushes and injections doesn't sound that hard. At least I didn't think so until I got into my program and the instructors started asking how one med may interact with another and other implications. However, my mom still thinks it is OK for me to do this since I am married and have two kids and I was never really that smart (even though she knows that I am one of the top five students in my class). Just my two cents
  4. by   fergus51
    I tell them I am an obstetric nurse. I assess, and care for women and their infants in labor and the postpartum period (which includes instituting non-pharmalogical and pharmalogical pain relief, monitoring for any complications which can be life threatening, providing emotional support to laboring women and informing the doctor of the patient's progress or needs, and LOTS of patient teaching about breastfeeding, infant care, etc.) I just make sure they know I don't just stand there and say "PUSH!" and that pregnancy and birth is a dangerous time for a woman's health (it isn't always happy).
  5. by   Genista
    How haunting! I had a friend comment about "that nursing thing" too, which I found insulting. Calling someone's career a "thing" is diminishing. You're are right, though. Most people don't have a clue what we nurses do. In fact, I think a large portion of the patient population doesn't know either... they don't see the nurse monitoring labs & results, piecing together the assessment with the critical thinking & knowledge, advocating, and collaborating with other disciplines. A case in point was when my own mother referred to my grandfather's home health aid as his "nurse." I said to her, "Oh is she a nurse? I thought she was a home health aid?" And Mom said, "Well, same thing." UH, NO IT IS NOT THE SAME THING. I had a talk with Mom that day! I told her why that comment offended me.I also told her what it is that differentiates a college educated, licensed RN from a home health aid.The public just has no idea what we really do behind the scenes. Often all patients see, and all that is portrayed in the media are the "tasks" like passing meds, performing treatments, assisting with ADLs, etc. Until we educate them, and accurately portray nurses in the media, the handmaiden image will persist.
  6. by   nursecheryl
    My answer to this question is that a nurse is one of the professionals in a medical environment, facility or situation who helps a patient recover from illness or injury, regain as much independence as possible, control pain and discomfort, prevent complications and most important to give instruction to patients and their family and loved ones so that they can continue to care for themselves in a confident way when we are no longer there.
  7. by   Helori
    I too had all but given up trying to explain what it is actually like to be a nurse. Truth I was one of the people who 'just didn't get it', that is until I actually graduated and stepped out onto the floor. It was only then that I truly realized what a responsibility it was. :uhoh21:

    About a month ago I got my copy of the Ontario Nurses Association newsletter. Usually I barely glance through the thing before throwing it out. But this time there was a poem inside it that made me not only keep the issue but leave it out on my coffee table for everyone to see. Maybe now my friends and family will finally get it!

    I'M "JUST A NURSE"
    By Suzanne Gordon,
    Co-author, "From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public"

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I just make the difference between life and death.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I just have the educated eyes that prevent medical errors, injuries, and other catastrophes.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I just educate patients and their families about how to maintain their health.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I just make the difference between dying in agony and dying with comfort and dignity.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I'm just the real bottom-line in health care.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I just make the difference between pain and comfort.

    Im "just a nurse."
    I just make the difference between healing, coping and despair.

    Im "just a nurse."
    I just work in a major teaching hospital managing and monitoring patients who are involved in cutting edge experimental medical or nursing research.

    Im "just a nurse."
    I'm just a professor of nursing who educates future generations of nurses.

    I'm "just a nurse."
    I'm just a long-term care nurse. I make the difference between staying in one's own home and going to a nursing home.

    To the student nurses...
    don't you want to be "just a nurse" too?
  8. by   mario_ragucci
    Originally posted by HLR_RN
    To the student nurses...
    don't you want to be "just a nurse" too?
    Yes, I am, and will be, just a nurse ! I'm sorry :-(
  9. by   ?burntout
    Hi-new here.

    Maybe we need to remind people that if it was not for the NURSES
    nothing would ever get done!!!!


    :chuckle

    (They think their MD is going to give their pills or their pain shots-HAHAHAHAHA:roll )
  10. by   Teshiee
    When someone ask me what do I do? I simply reply I am a registered nurse. I work in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit. Most people I come in contact are very positive and I explain to them my perception of what nursing is and they tell me the same. Mainly I just say it is a very dynamic area to go into. You do not have to limit yourself to bedside there are so many roles nurses play in the health care profession.
  11. by   karenelizabeth
    I just tell people that ask I'm a nurse,

    then they always ask where so I explaine about NICU.

    I hate the "oh how loverly" "I couldn't do that" coments I get

    I love the poem HLR_RN I might have it printed and get it put up at work

    Karen
  12. by   MollyMo
    At my ten year reunion, one of my classmates asked what I was doing. He's a surgeon. I told him I'm a nurse. He said"nursing. That's a...noble profession." Yeah, d**kwad, let's see you operate without one!!!
  13. by   TootyFruity
    I'm not a nurse yet (still researching nursing schools), but I would figure that 2-4 years of college to be "just a nurse", would make people think that nurses do have an important place in the hospital! jeez.
  14. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Tell them to quit watching so damn much TV, and when they NEED one, they will SEE what is done. Succinct and true. I cannot possibly top all the answers here and I don't want to even try.

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