12 Things Your Nurse Wants You to Know
- The Front Line of HealthcareFrom the hospital to your doctor’s office to your child’s school, nurses fill a range of healthcare roles. Often, nurses are the providers people interact with the most. They’ve seen and heard just about everything. Here’s what our experts want you to know about their profession and their advice for you.
- 1. “Nurses take pride in the professional standards they maintain.”The term “nurse” covers various professionals providing different levels of care. And they all take pride in their profession. Nurses can start at entry-level positions as LPNs (licensed practical nurse) or begin as RNs (registered nurse) with a bachelor’s degree. Nurses can earn graduate degrees and work in advanced practice settings. Mary Barton, APN explains, “APNs (advanced practice nurses) are RNs who have gone on for additional education and experience. They can order tests, diagnose, prescribe, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed.”
- 2. “The unique role of nurses deserves respect.”While nurses are known for the personal nature of their care, they also spend years mastering the scientific knowledge of their profession. Monica Sweeney, APN, CNP points out, “We are here to serve you, but that isn’t our primary role. We are healthcare providers first.” Mary Barton adds, “Our role is to engage patients in decisions about their healthcare and keep them focused on their ongoing health.” As a nursing department head, Judy Balcitis, RN, MSN agrees, “I’m here to teach you how to care for yourself. I want to be a good teacher, so please tell me if you don’t understand.”
- 3. “Nurses put the heart in healthcare.”Along with the medical care they provide, nurses also want you to know one basic truth that carries through all levels of nursing: nurses are caring. Mary Barton believes her profession “puts the heart in healthcare.” Judy Balcitis heads the Nursing Department at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. She and fellow nurses Marian Zmuda, RN, BSN and Nannette Jones, RN, BSN sum it up this way: “I want to know what really matters to you. Caring, compassion, comfort, and respect for your wishes are of utmost importance to me.”
- 4. “I consider it a privilege to partner with you.”Often, nurses are the healthcare team members you see most, which is why they consider themselves a partner as much as a provider. Judy Balcitis says she and the nurses in her department look at it this way: “I care about you and your health. Your care is a partnership that includes you, your loved ones, and your healthcare team.” Nurses want you to know you aren’t in this alone. They will do their part—and you need to do yours—to make the partnership work.
- 5. “We take you and your health problems home with us.”Being a nurse isn’t always easy. Sometimes, nurses have to be tough. Rhonda Angel, RN, BSN is a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse who works with critically ill newborns. In her role, she says, “The baby is always our first priority. We need to make decisions that don’t always make us popular. For example, holding your baby may have to wait several weeks and we may have to say ‘no’ for now.” As a former ICU nurse, Monica Sweeney says, “Caring for people who are very sick or dying affects us. But we have to keep it together to do our job.”
- 6. “Your health and safety are my first priority.”Nurses consistently express the idea of putting their patients’ needs first. The nurses at Advocate Sherman Hospital emphasize, “Your safety is my priority.” Rhonda Angel and Monica Sweeney concur. They want you to know the person in the hospital bed is their focus and priority, whether it’s a 90-year-old grandmother or a 9-day old baby. As Monica Sweeney says, “Your family members are important, but your (own) health and well-being comes first. My main concern is caring for you.”
- 7. “It’s important to be realistic about pain.”Sometimes pain is part of the recovery process. And your nurse is there to get you through it. This may mean they have to push you to do things you might not feel like doing. Nursing VP Judy Balcitis explains, “Walking and deep breathing are often essential to your recovery. And being pain-free is not always possible. But I promise to do everything I can to control your pain.” Monica Sweeney adds, “Resist over- or underestimating your pain so we can set achievable pain relief goals.”
- 8. “You need one doctor who coordinates your care.”Nurses stress the importance of having coordinated healthcare. Care can become fragmented when you have a hospital stay or see many different specialists. Nurses are a resource to keep your care coordinated. But they also recommend having one doctor who is in charge of your care. Natalie Garry, GNP puts it this way: “You need a captain of the ship.” For many adults, an internal medicine doctor fills this role. Natalie Garry urges people older than 80 to see a geriatrician to coordinate their healthcare and work with other specialists.
- 9. “Carry an updated medication list at all times.”“Medication issues are one of the biggest problems I see,” says Monica Sweeney. Nurse practitioner Natalie Garry agrees. She sees many people on multiple medicines, some of which may be doing more harm than good. “For someone with memory problems, a drug the cardiologist prescribed might actually be causing more problems,” she says. Like many nurses, Garry spends much of her time teaching people about their medicines and helping them stay on track with the ones they really need.
- 10. “Be sure your doctor’s advice makes sense for you.”Natalie Garry is passionate about her patients getting the right care. She works with older people and explains, “As people age, especially when they’re 80 or older, screening tests and surgery may not always be necessary.” She values second opinions to confirm a diagnosis or when patients are considering a procedure. She recommends, “Older people should bring a younger family member or friend to their appointments.” This person can offer support and a different perspective, along with a second set of ears to help understand what the doctor says.
- 11. “Knowledge is power, so ask questions.”As a former ICU nurse and a current nurse practitioner, Monica Sweeney advises patients to ask questions—lots of questions. She tells patients, “Make lists and write down everything you want to ask.” She also encourages people to make their healthcare wishes known to their doctors and family members. “Formalize your wishes for medical care and end-of-life care through living wills and advance directives, in case you can’t express them yourself.”
- 12. “Each person and circumstance is different.”People get their healthcare information from all kinds of sources these days. It’s important to educate yourself, but you need to understand every person is different. Monica Sweeney explains, “You are an individual, and each person reacts differently to health problems. Information you read may not apply to you.” NICU nurse Rhonda Angel has similar advice for the parents of her newborn patients. “It’s fine to talk to other parents in your situation,” she says, ”but know that each baby is different. Rely on your healthcare staff to offer the best advice for your circumstances.”
12 Things Your Nurse Wants You to Know