I am never a better nurse than when I have just been a patient. A recent ER visit highlighted this fact. I was in pain, anxious, and very very tired of being sick for the past year. I will stress quite clearly that I do not like being on the gurney side of a hospital bed and that, coupled with my pain, made for very bad vital signs. The next few hours were what I had expected as a former ICU nurse-EKG ,blood work, etc. However, what struck me the most (probably because I DID expect those things and had time to think about the other stuff) was how different I was treated between my doctor and the two nurses who cared for me.
Now, I want to make a very clear distinction here because I don't want to get into a conversation about doctors vs. nurse. I want to clarify that it was THIS doctor and These nurses who I was comparing. All of them did assessments and history and monitored me for the hours that I was there. All of them were competent at their jobs. The doctor had more knowledge base but was neither congenial nor friendly and truly looked at me as vital signs, symptoms, and orders.
The nurses did their assessments, talked to me about my year long struggle, and cared why I had chosen to come in on that day at that hour. They advocated when I didn't want a particular pain medication due to a bad reaction in the past and requested we try something else-the ultimate outcome of that little adventure.
As we go into the next chapter of nursing I wanted to take a minute to capture these two very different approaches. Nursing is changing. A whole new role of Nurse, and more specific to this case, Nurse Practitioner is developing across the country before my very eyes. The scope and practice of this new nurse will be different. I don't know what the parameters will be but I for one am very excited to see it unfold.
Having said that, this new knowledge base brings with it a new set of responsibilities as well as a very new set of challenges. As we move into this new era of nursing we need to be very cognizant of our foundations. We are nurses; we chose nursing school for a reason. We have been taught the codes, ethics, and beliefs of nursing. They were drilled into us at the same time as those new IV, blood draw, and suctioning skills were being practiced.
If this new brand of nurse and nurse practitioner does have more of an independent role and voice in the upcoming years, as I suspect, we will all have a say in the shaping of what that new nurse will be like. Not only of what is expected of him/ her but also what they will stand for and represent. A new paradigm will be created and I, for one, hope that our old codes and ethics evolve, not change. Evolution keeps fundamental components and adds to them, making them more adaptable to their new climate while keeping the best of the core individual intact. Evolution, for the most part, is an improvement to an already functioning thing. Change is like a mutation, it could be good and it could be bad- favorable or deadly.
So, as the medication infused through my IV line on that gurney I began to imagine a day when one of those two nurses might choose the path of more autonomy through education, all while keeping to their listening abilities, their full assessments, and their great advocacy skills.
For one calm, pain free moment I was much like Don Quixote in his madness; I saw the windmills, the knight, and the world not as it is but as it should be.