Nurses: Amongst The Most Important Members of Healthcare
Explore the importance of nurses in healthcare and the role nurses play in caring for those in need of medical treatment.
Patients seeking care for a medical condition interact with a variety of people, one of whom may be a nurse.
What is a Nurse?
A nurse is a skilled provider who works alongside other health professionals in a clinic or hospital setting. With over 3 million nurses in today’s healthcare setting, these professionals serve as the backbone of the industry. To work as a nurse, an individual must complete the required education and training. Many nurses also pass a certification exam to receive the registered nurse (RN) status.
A Brief History of Nursing
Changing demands in the healthcare field have created a new landscape for those in nursing roles. In the past, nurses performed fewer healthcare-related tasks, focusing more on the domestic side of patient care. They often completed chores, such as sweeping floors, cleaning dining areas, and serving meals. But during the Civil War, the need for support in the healthcare field increased dramatically, resulting in the evolution of the nursing role.
Throughout the war, soldiers sustained extensive injuries that required immediate attention. Doctors didn’t have the bandwidth to care for every patient at the moment they needed care, which meant they had to delegate tasks to nurses, who had to advocate for their abilities to perform these important tasks.
Advocates of the nursing profession further pushed for the formation of the United States Army Nurse Corps. This later became a permanent unit in the U.S. Army, leading to the formation of the New York Nurses Association, a group that laid the groundwork needed to create the earliest nurse practices act. The movement for nurses ignited the need for further education in healthcare, and North Carolina was the nation’s first state to require the completion of nursing school and registration with the state nursing board.
The requirement in North Carolina began in 1903, and within two decades, all 48 states in the continental U.S. followed suit. All nurses, regardless of work location, now receive standardized education and take a similar licensing exam.
How Today’s Nurses Support Patients
Today’s nurses are removed from their 19th century counterparts who focused on domestic tasks. They perform many healthcare duties to support physicians and other care providers, as well as to help patients and their families. A nurse undergoes training to focus on the needs of the entire patient, rather than just the portion that’s injured or ill. Nurses can look beyond individual symptoms to determine the root cause of an issue. With that information, a nurse can advocate for the proper treatment, as well as provide resources to manage care after leaving a healthcare facility.
Nurses also create space to communicate with patients to better understand their needs. Establishing trust can help a patient feel more comfortable during an otherwise frightening time. Part of building trust involves providing emotional support for patients, particularly those who feel anxious or concerned about their conditions and how their lives will be impacted.
Another key role of a nurse in the healthcare setting is to provide education. These professionals may offer counseling or lead community-based initiatives to promote health and wellness on a wider scale.
Nursing Roles and Responsibilities
Nurses can take on a variety of roles and responsibilities, although their exact duties will depend on their workplace. In a hospital setting, a nurse might perform the following tasks:
• Observing and assessing patients
• Maintaining patient records with medical history and current health details
• Administering treatments and medications
• Monitoring patients for potential reactions or side effects
• Performing wound care, including bandaging and cleaning
• Monitoring and operating medical equipment
• Preparing patients for treatments and exams
• Answering questions from patients and their families
• Drawing bodily fluids in preparation for lab work
Nurses are extremely vital to the success of a healthcare setting, whether a hospital, clinic, or other facility. At SelectHealth, we are proud of our nursing providers, and are grateful to all who work in this critically important profession.