Bedside nursing is a dying art. With the recent push towards increased specialization and research, there are fewer and fewer nurses whose goal it is to remain at the bedside. And with the current national nursing shortage, this is getting to be a problem.
If you aren’t familiar with the importance of bedside nursing, here are a few little things that you should know.
What Does Bedside Nursing Involve?
Bedside nursing is all of the face-to-face patient interaction that occurs in a hospital or other facility. Bedside nurses administer medications, change linens, take vitals, and take care of any of the patient’s urgent needs. Generally, these needs are physical, but a competent bedside nurse will also address the emotional needs of patients. Consider the patient whose family never comes to visit, despite them being in the hospital for days or even weeks. This patient certainly has some important emotional needs that aren’t being met. A bedside nurse will take the time to chat with the patient and make sure they are doing ok.
The Bedside Nurse as Middleman
Perhaps one of the greatest roles of a bedside nurse is that of a go-between for patients and physicians. Since nurses spend the most time with patients, they are the most familiar with their diagnosis-related complaints and the appearance of any new symptoms or side effects, among other situations. Bedside nurses have excellent communication skills and will relay information to other hospital personnel that should be involved in the patient’s case.
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The Bedside Nurse as Educator
Along with taking care of the needs of the patient, the bedside nurse also has the important task of educating the patient and their family about the health situation they are in. From diagnosis to treatments and medication, a bedside nurse needs to be able to translate medical jargon to laymen’s terms in order to effectively help the patient understand. They also help make sure that the patient and their family understand what they are to do after discharge and how they are to follow-up with treatment and therapy.
The Bedside Nurse and Compassion Fatigue
Most nurses are familiar with the term “compassion fatigue.” If this is new to you, this is a type of emotional burnout that often appears as depression. Because nurses are expected to offer compassionate care at all times, they often suffer from simply not being able to give any more of themselves to others. The bedside nurse is at particular risk of this since he or she works continuously face-to-face with patients who often require incredible amounts of empathy and patience. Working directly with patients in this way can be emotionally challenging, and without any kind of respite, many nurses will not be able to continue without facing fatigue.
Bedside Nurses Are at Risk for Injury
It might sound like bedside nursing is an easygoing gig, as long as you can stay happy, but we’re sorry if we’ve misled you. In fact, bedside nursing is one of the most physically demanding branches of nursing. They often must physically lift patients to transfer them from bed to chair or to another bed. And with the increasing size of the average American, this is getting less and less feasible for a nurse to do alone or with only one partner to help.
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The issue is that bedside nurses are often relied heavily upon for this sort of task, and with the nursing shortage, sometimes there aren’t enough nurses to get things done. This leads to many bedside nurses attempting to lift or move a patient alone, resulting in back or knee injury, or even chronic pain.
The Bedside Shortage
In the end, we know that there is a nursing shortage, but one of the biggest problems we have here is that the nurses that are working are choosing to go into complicated specialties, research, and education. Of course, these are all areas that need nurses as well, but with so many nurses becoming, as they might feel, overqualified to do direct patient work, we need to encourage nurses to get back to their roots and back to the bedside.