This is the primary role of a nurse and most everyone is aware of it. As caregivers, nurses are responsible for attending to the various needs of patients. Most people see nurses as the ones who give shots or pass out medication, maybe attend to wound dressings. But oftentimes nurses are responsible for total care of the patient, including everything the nurse does normally, but also, well, everything else. Feeding, toileting, lifting, moving – all of these are chores that a nurse has to do to fulfill her job as caregiver.
On a deeper level, nurses are also personal caregivers. As the employee most in contact with the patient, it is often necessary to engage in conversation, address fears, or simply listen to the patient. A nurse must also be aware of cultural or religious issues that could come into play during treatment and act accordingly.
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A nurse’s critical thinking will be her most important skill when it comes to helping patients. Often a nurse has to use her best judgment to decide what is best for the patient or their family. This means that a nurse has to use her scientific knowledge in combination with her cultural understanding and any conversations she’s had with patients to make the best decision for a positive patient outcome. It can be difficult, but, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, nurses are able to put together the pieces of information they have on hand to make the right decisions for care.
No one works more closely or consistently with individual patients than nurses do. As such, they are more familiar with the patient’s values, religious beliefs, and cultural practices. Knowing these things, a nurse can properly advocate for the patient to make sure they receive the correct treatments and best available care. Nurses also serve as advocates when they use their person-to-person skills to determine what it is a patient wants or needs. Remember, patients don’t often behave in their normal way when they are sick, scared, or in pain. The nurse, then, understands that their words or actions aren’t indicative of who they are as a person, but rather serve as indicators of what the patient needs or wants.
When a patient is discharged from a facility, there is often some type of follow-up care that needs to be done at home. It is the nurse’s responsibility to educate the patient and their family members on proper at-home care. Likewise, nurses usually have to educate about diagnoses or medications. Making sure patients understand what is happening to them will help them better cope with it. It is also the nurse’s role to educate the patient or their family about confusing procedures or complex treatments. Giving the patient this knowledge gives them a bit more power and control over their own health, which can be immensely helpful for healing.
Nurses are an absolutely integral part of any healthcare team. Without them, hospitals, clinics, and other facilities would crumble under the weight of all the roles and responsibilities they take on. The list above is not comprehensive of every single role of a nurse, but it does give a general idea of the many hats a nurse wears each day.