10 Things To Know About Nurses

April 6, 2010

When you’re in a hospital or any other medical facility, you’ll soon discover that your best friend is your nurse. As a staunch advocate for your patient rights, your nurse is your strongest ally in making sure you get the care you need.

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But not everyone who walks into your room is a nurse. Sometimes it can be confusing, but you need to know who you’re talking to when you or a family member is ill. Nancy Ramirez, RN, CHPN (more about those initials below) at the Motion Picture & Television Fund suggested this list of “10 Things to Know about Nurses”

1. To be called a nurse, the person must be licensed as a nurse.
Other personnel may be helpful in caring, but besides your doctor, the Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)* has information about your health condition. Look for those important letters after a person’s name to be sure you’re talking to a nurse.
2. Nurses are not just care provideers, they are Health Educators.
Once your medical condition has been diagnosed, your nurse will be the one to talk to you about your treatment and how to maintain your health. He or she also can help with resources such as support groups, reading material, websites, etc.
3. Nurses deserve to be treated with respect.
Hospitals and other facilities often try to promote a friendly atmosphere with everyone on a first-name basis and in scrubs rather than the crisp white uniforms of days gone by. Keep in mind that your nurse is a college-educated healthcare professional.
4. Nurses are patient advocates and coordinators of your care.
As mentioned above, as a patient you have rights. Your nurse is there to help ensure those rights are protected. Were you properly informed about a procedure? Did you sign the necessary paperwork? Most importantly, if you are unable to speak for yourself, a nurse is there, facilitating your journey back to good health.
5. Nurses have a Code of Ethics.
When a Registered Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse graduates from college he or she takes a Nurses Oath (see below) and vows to follow a Code of Ethics – professional standards set for all nurses.
6. Nurses help people achieve and maintain health – questions are encouraged!
Please ask your nurse about your medical condition whenever you have a question. The more you understand the better you will be able to participate in improving your health (see #9!). Your nurse will do his or her best to tell you what you need to know, but if you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask.
7. Nurses want to relieve your pain and symptoms.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but patients often try to “be brave” when it comes to pain or other symptoms. Don’t wait until the pain is too much to take before you mention it to your nurse. Think of it as a “preemptive strike” to take the medication before pain becomes unbearable. The earlier you deal with discomfort, the less medication will be required. Strike early and you’ll recover more quickly. It’s true. Tell your nurse as soon as it starts to hurt.
8. Nurses are good multi-taskers.
All those television dramas are right – nurses are often juggling many, many balls during any given shift. Every patient is important to them, but sometimes a nurse has to set priorities that mean you might have to wait while someone else receives care. Your nurse should be communicating clearly with you about what is happening and when you can expect
assistance. But you have to be clear, too. Don’t downplay your concerns because you don’t want to be a bother. Tell your nurse how you are feeling and work together with him or her to plan the best course of action.
9. Nurses want their patients to be as independent as possible.
Nurses will always encourage you to do as much as you can for yourself. The more independent you are, the stronger you will become. The stronger you are, the sooner you will be able to return to life outside the hospital! For instance, it might seem impossible to insist you get up and walk right after you have had surgery, but there is an important purpose in following your nurse’s request – you will not lose motor functions, it will prevent blood clots and pneumonia, and you will start healing faster. It’s a nurse’s version of tough love!
10. Most importantly, nurses care!

*LVN – also known as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in some states.
CHPN – Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse

Nurses Oath (Nightingale Pledge, first used in 1893)

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

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