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Nurses: The unsung heroes!

Nurses General Nursing Article   posted
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Nurses save lives too.... Personal experiences at the bedside that have helped me in my transition from novice nurse to seasoned patient advocate throughout my career. Priceless experiences outlined from helping new graduate nurses gain valued experience and confidence in getting a patient transferred to a major university medical center for life saving treatments.

Why do we become nurses?

My story started when I was twelve, and my grandmother had surgery. I helped change her bandages and got her medicine for her when she went home from the hospital. This was rewarding for me, and I knew it was something I liked to do. Then life happened. I was swayed by the possibility of a glamorous writing career because I was good at it and in high school, I received a college Scholarship for journalism. Once in college, I felt lost and unsure if a career in writing was my calling, so I took a career planning college course and realized my personality was more suited for a serving field. I graduated a few years later with a degree in nursing ready to conquer the world.

Our first experiences in nursing: good or bad?

I took my first job as a registered nurse on a medical / surgical floor and found that the saying "nurses eat their young" was nothing but true. I felt used and abused before my orientation was over. After countless assignments including the hardest patients, not eating lunch, and my coworkers with "what's in it for me" attitudes, I felt bewildered.

During orientation, my assigned nurse would tell our boss everything I was doing wrong instead of correcting me herself and telling me the right way to do things.

After getting some experience under my belt, I decided to help new graduates and new hires never feel this way again. I became a nurse preceptor and the designated new employee trainer for our unit. Now, after more than ten years of nursing, I continue to be the designated new employee trainer and I have precepted over 3000 hours of new graduate nursing students and new graduate nurse practitioner students. Today, I teach critical care clinicals.

How do we advocate for our patients? My experience comforting a dying patient and her family.

As a nurse, I have had the opportunity to be with patients in their last hours. When I was a critical care nurse one patient, in particular, was in her forties, had two school aged children and had a disease that made her unable to breathe on her own. The doctors had exhausted all treatment options and told her she would be on a ventilator for the rest of her life, and her paralysis was incurable. We had gotten to know her family and friends since she had been in our unit for months. Our staff cared for her by doing special things like shaving her legs, dying her hair and other grooming tasks that you aren't taught in nursing school. After a few months of living like this, the patient decided she did not want to live anymore and she removed herself from life support.

The process was difficult for her and her family. I felt like it was my duty to make sure it went smoothly. We called clergy, her family and communicated with the doctors about her comfort through the process of withdrawal of care. Then, when the patient was ready and had said goodbye to her family and children, we took her off life support. I was able to hold her sister's hand as she said goodbye for the last time and we both cried.

Helping a critically ill patient and family get life-saving treatment.

Another incident I recall vividly started as a routine visit to the emergency department for the patient, he was in his forties also, newly married with a baby at home. He had an infection, and our team admitted him to the hospital for antibiotics. He saw a surgeon and had to have an operation to remove some of the infection. After he did not get discharged routinely, I started checking on him and realized he was critically ill. His infection had gotten worse, and he was dying. This was distressing to me because I had learned about his wife and child through our original interview and now he may never see them again.

He developed a condition which I knew could be treated by a major university medical center four hours away by car. I discussed this with his physicians and they said he was "too sick to go." I then discovered the medical center had a critical care jet that could transport the patient within 30 minutes. I brought up the possibility of this treatment and transfer again, but his care team turned it down saying he was "too sick to go." I then prayed about it and cried. The next day, much to my relief the attending physician then changed his mind and contacted the hospital that could provide the treatment speaking with their care team. The patient was accepted, and he was transported. I found out later from his family that he lived and was able to go to rehabilitation.

Why nurses do what we do?

I don't feel these experiences are unique to me; I know that all nurses have had those days where you have been able to be a part of a patient's or family's life that both you and they will never forget. That's why we do what we do, for that whisper of a thank you as you hold a patient's hand, so they won't die alone. It's for that smile of gratitude when you bring in ice cream to your pediatric patient who has been at the hospital waiting for a transplant for weeks, too sick to go home. Although most days are hard to pull yourself up out of bed, away from your family, hopefully, these reflections will help you remember why we all do this in the first place.

Andrea Higginbotham, RN, CRNP is a freelance writer, nursing instructor, and Nurse Practitioner practicing in internal medicine. Andrea has been an RN since 2005, specializing in adult medicine. She and her husband reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

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When you think it's wrong, it probably is.

I recommend to always act appropriately on this instict.

I understand and re-live what you've written above I've essentially stood in the door, and said "no. that's an unsafe discharge and cannot happen without my authority".

I've also called my Nurse Supervisor, the Resident, the Attending, the House officer, or whomever I needed when I thought a treatment/med was wrong, or I just didn't understand. Hey, I'm not an idiot. I've earned my place and want very much to care appropriately for my patients. If it doesn't make sense to me I'm not going to do it to my patient.

RNs have mandated requirements, ethical obligations, and power to advocate for our patients. Following the EMR instructions or the physician order does not ever absolve a nurse from being a Nurse.

Edited by CRGRN
not finished

Elfriede specializes in ambulant care.

(.... censored ...)

We have to sing our own song !

If we dont represent our profession and professionalism in public,

we´ll be still recognized as Doc`s sweety.

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