I’m just the nurse. That was my response when questioned regarding my role. One day, that response felt wrong. I am the nurse that will provide care, advocate, educate, and inform. This thinking “just a nurse” is exactly what is wrong with the world view of nursing. The truth about nursing is unknown by most people. Maybe, that is due in part to the many roles a nurse can have. A nurse can provide direct patient care inpatient or outpatient, research, administration, legal, and the list continue. I am not just a nurse. I am educated and knowledgeable. I am caring and compassionate.
I work in private practice and my role changes from minute to minute and day to day. I provide phone triage. I obtain information and give advice to patients over the phone. I may be talking to the parent of a sick child, a prenatal who is in labor, or a patient with chest pain. I must be able to think quickly and provide appropriate advice. If a patient needs to go to the hospital, then I need to be able to tell them that right away. I can’t wait for the physician in the event of an emergency. Take a stroke patient for example, every second is critical, and care cannot be delayed.
I room patients, obtain vital signs, and get them ready to see the physician. Depending on the patient and visit type, different information may be needed. I may need to obtain a urine specimen, obtain blood for laboratory testing, administer oxygen, administer medications orally, through injection or IV. They may require a procedure in which case I would set up for the specific procedure they are going to have. In addition to regular office visits, my office does casting for simple fractures, sutures for lacerations, excisions, circumcisions, cryotherapy and IV antibiotics. Our patients range in age from newborn to geriatrics including OB/GYN.
I also manage. I do staff scheduling and order supplies. I put out fires and sometimes I’m the fall guy. I manage our state vaccine program. Order imaging for patients and obtain approval from their insurance companies. When the pharmacy tells you that your insurance doesn’t want to cover your medication, and it requires prior authorization, yes, I do that too. I also work with insurance companies to ensure that patients are getting regular preventative care as a care coordinator. I attend meetings and gather information. I am given our office report card so to say and make changes where needed. I’m calling patients to tell them they are past due for their physicals, diabetic eye exams, colonoscopies, and mammograms. I talk to patients about medications, treatments, questions, and concerns. I talk to every drug rep that comes through the door.
I hold the hand of a new widow and listen. I sit with a patient that has just been told they have a terminal illness. I continue to work after finding out that a favorite patient has passed away. I hold back my own emotion to maintain a professional image, to continue to meet the needs of other patients, to provide information, and guidance as needed. My car is my safe haven and my ride home is when I can allow my emotions to show.
Conversations are not always pleasant because I didn’t do these things fast enough for some. You may not know that I work through lunch most days to ensure every request is done. I forgot to drink enough fluids today, and I didn’t use the bathroom yet. I have worked an hour over and now I must leave to race to my child who awaits me. A forgiving child who is often the last child at aftercare because I could not leave a patient.
I am a caregiver.
I am an educator.
I am a nurse.
I am human.
I am a mother, and a wife who sometimes comes home empty.
Shawna Whitford, RN