I Want to Make a Difference in My Patients' Lives

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I have been an RN for a little over a year. I worked on a med/surg oncology unit and I loved working with oncology patients, but I hated the hospital setting because it was too chaotic and I didn't feel like I had enough time to really spend time with and help my patients. I just started a job in home health, and maybe it will feel different when I get out of training, but right now it seems like all the home health nurse does is take vitals, change dressings, and fill out paperwork. I don't feel like I'm truly helping someone by doing those things.

    I want a job where I really feel like I'm helping people and making a difference, which is why I loved working with oncology patients. The only problem is, I live in more of a rural area and there are not many opportunities for oncology nursing here unless you work in a hospital, which I discovered I don't like. I went to an OCN class in a big city and that city had tons of opportunities for oncology nurses in an outpatient setting, but the opportunities are scarce here.

    I'm the type of person that thrives off of one on one care, making personal connections with patients, and having a deep sense that I'm helping them or making a difference. I definitely feel called to be a nurse so I can help and be a blessing to people, and I want to have a spiritual connection with what I'm doing. I thought about working in hospice, but I'm not sure if I can handle seeing people die all the time and the emotional stress it will put me through.

    Do you have any career advice for me? What area of nursing would you recommend for me if I want to make a real difference in my patients' lives?

    Thank you!

    Dear Wants to Make a Difference,

    I believe nurses in all specialities make a difference. Did you brighten someone’s day? Encourage a patient or family member? Calm them with your presence? Educate them on their condition? The times I have been a patient, nurses have made a huge difference and I’ll bet they didn’t even know it. I still remember the kind labor nurse when I was birthing my first child as a terrified young mother.

    One option that comes to mind with your background and compassion is Palliative Care nursing. It's in the hospital setting, but it's not like working on a nursing unit. You would see patients throughout the hospital and coordinate services. There's a lot of communication with families and opportunity for connection.

    Try giving Home Health a little more time before you decide that you are not making a difference. Home Health can be very gratifying as you establish a relationship with your patients and get to know them in their own setting. It's also one to one care, which you are drawn to.

    You can be a blessing in any setting, even when you don't realize it. Many of us often have no idea of the impact we have on others. It's not the tasks that you do that
    define who you are, it's your presence. It's not the acuity of the patient, it's the universal need to be understood that nurses can meet in any situation.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth

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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,382; Likes: 4,120


  3. by   darlink
    Look at hospice. We really make a difference in the lives of patients and families
  4. by   Sunny2003
    I have spent the last 7 months as a "case manager" in home health. I think it is very rewarding. I am helping individuals stay home and out of LTC and the hospital. I love to educate patients and their families. It is normally very simple things that make the biggest difference. I taught one gentleman how to cough and deep breath and use his incentive spirometer. I have him demonstrate both every time I visit. He was previously a frequent flyer in the hospital due to pneumonia. He has not been there or on antibiotics for 5 months. Fortunately, he faithfully does what I taught him.

    You need to figure out what type of difference you want to make and pursue an area where you can accomplish that. My difference is empowering my patients with knowledge regarding their health so that they can take control of their own health.
  5. by   charlottegirl
    Hi...i am a hospice nurse and i love it. I was an admission nurse where i presented services and brought patients under care. I rarely was there for the death. There are after hours/on call positions too where although you see death more often you have not necessarily bonded w that patient and family. You are able to be the one who comes in and handles a crisis professionally and provide education. I just love what we do. As a case manager you will likely form relationships with the pt and family more easily. Some nurses love tgat- not the role for me though.
  6. by   bldlpn
    Home health is not only visits to multiple patients. I have been a private duty home health nurse for 20+ years and am currently caring for my fifth patient.
    I think you will find that this area will meet your needs and I have found that every agency for which I have worked is always looking for capable and dedicated nurses.
    (I, too, live in a rural area.)
  7. by   RNable
    Home Nursing in a small place might well be for you! I'm working in a smaller community and have discovered that home care does a heap of stuff that larger places either pass on to other departments or do in hospital. It's pretty cool, actually--we see clients with central lines in community, provide palliative care and family support for those who are dying or wish to die at home, perform set up for delegation of task for clients who have trouble with their medications, and do foot and wound care as well as help in ambulatory clinic in the hospital. In short, we're busy nurses and the load is diverse. Don't give up on home care just yet--it may well be more than paperwork and wounds