The profession of nurse has always been one of the most dignified, respected and appreciated ones – it is the calling that a person pursues in his or her life and brings relief and support to ill people, the ones who are in need of help and assistance in many aspects. However, for a long time there was a tendency to underestimate the role of nurse in the process of recovery and in the overall process of provision of medical care, since nurses were thought to conduct only certain mechanical operations for helping patients and were not thought to possess professional medical knowledge to an extent that would give them a chance to influence the state of patients’ health more directly.
Personally, I am sure that the commitment that every nurse takes with the nurses pledge is carried out in my practice of nursing by promoting physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing in an environment that fosters respect and compassion, in partnership of Christ. The role of a nurse is very deep and multi-faceted, thus, in case it is further neglected, there may be a great failure for the medical care provision system to realize its full potential of its functioning. Historically it happened so that nurses do not receive extensive medical education that would equal the one of doctors. For this reason they are considered not experienced and not knowledgeable enough to exercise their judgment or to be of any other help but the direct physical care about the patient.
One should never forget that people the nurse takes care of are ill. These people have got to hospital because of certain dysfunctions of their organisms, so they are in the crisis situation at that particular moment. Medical knowledge is the privilege for the few, so people may not assess their own state of health adequately – they rely on the experience and professionalism of the doctor. However, the doctor is not the person who will stay with the patient all the time – he/she has to do the work and serve other people’s needs. Consequently, it is the nurse who is the first person to be near the patient when he is in need, and it is his/her responsibility to encourage the patient, to inform the patient about the progress if there is any, and to support the person in any possible way.
It is a fact that nurses’ work differs much from the work of doctors, since they represent assistant personnel that cares for the provision of supplementary needs of patients and the medical staff. But looking closer at the issue one may understand that in fact the nurse has a much wider range of responsibilities, opportunities and work he/she may do to pursue their calling. Nurses have a wonderful chance to get engaged in volunteering and health promotion programs to provide the common public with basic medical education, to teach people cope with insignificant health problems or avoid them in general. It is a decisive role of nurses that is potentially profitable for the community reducing the risk of falling ill for people who will take the educational material into consideration seriously, eliminating medical illiteracy and increasing the community’s confidence and comfort. All these activities are highly appreciated by people who may have done dramatic mistakes concerning their health just because of negligence or ignorance.
Health environment is also an important issue to consider – it is the environment that influences the human health and makes some people ill and some – healthy. There is a plenty of external and internal factors that commonly shape the profile of state of health of a certain individual. Of course, internal factors may become more significant with some individuals because genetic predisposition to certain hereditary illnesses seriously increases the risk of falling ill. Nonetheless, external factors, such as economy, community, the state of environmental pollution can also obtain crucial importance in some cases:
Nearly 70% of public health directors reported having perceived local climate change in the last two decades and 78% expect it in the next two, but only 19% of respondents felt their organization was “highly prepared” to deal with a climate-related emergency (Kennedy, 2009a).
The nurse is also an individual, so he/she is unlikely to manipulate the external factors of large-scale importance. For instance, even if all nurses come to a factory polluting the surroundings and ask the administration to drop this because 30% of people living in the neighborhood have obtained asthma, the factory is unlikely to stop functioning. However, there is a boundless opportunity for the nurse to influence such external factors as the participation of the family in the process of recovery, the internal needs of the patient in comforting, reassurance and nurturing of his/her spirituality:
Caring for the spiritual needs of patients is a neglected and misunderstood aspect of nursing care. This is due to the lack of instruction nurses receive in the spiritual dimension of nursing. I can personally attest to this because in my experience as a nursing student, spirituality was identified as part of the holistic approach to providing patient care, but the subject was never explored” (Rogers, 2004).
Spirituality of nursing has been the central issue lately, as many researchers got interested in the real role of the nurse’s spirituality and the way a nurse may satisfy the spiritual needs of a patient. There has been much work done in the sphere, many findings have been obtained – for example, nowadays the majority of writers specializing in this sphere consider nursing a multidimensional profession having a multitude of roles in the process of treatment, however recognizing that the introduction of spirituality as a compulsory ethical requirement of nursing is essential but represents a challenge (McSherry, 2006; Rolley et al., 2008).
Nurses still remain the key participants of the casual medical care process, providing for the basic, insignificant needs of the patients while doctors get involved only in case of a greater necessity. Since doctors are occupied with more urgent and important patients, it is the responsibility of a nurse to conduct regular checkups of the patients who are clients of this particular hospital, to care for the home health and community involvement in the process of sustaining a good state of health for everyone. It is not a secret that every person would like to be healthy – there is simply no definite guidance for the common public on how to achieve this and what measures to take in order to avoid some common illnesses.
As time passes, it is still notable that the role of nurses is underestimated in the process of medical care provision. Nevertheless, it is pleasant to see that within the past decade there has been growing attention to the role of nurse in the medical process, and finally his/her significance in other spheres of care has been recognized. As an example, one may consider the growing popularity of research in the sphere of spirituality in nursing, which is indisputably important for the present discussion:
Nursing is not only a respected profession; it is a beautiful and holy vocation. Caring for the sick is not only a job, it is a ministry, a ministry to the weakest, the neediest, the most fragile of our brothers and sisters in the human family (O’Brien, 2008).
Compassion is a certain way to nurture the patient’s spiritual and moral needs – though being underestimated in the overall treatment process spirituality has been proved to affect other health variables directly, being connected with a broader term of quality of life (Yarbro, Goodman and Frogge, 2005). The way to exercise compassion is seen by Harold Koenig (2007) as initial identification of the patient’s spiritual needs and their further satisfaction.
This information has already found practical proofs – according to the survey conducted in October 2008 by Harvard researchers, the level of patients’ satisfaction with the provision of medical care is directly connected with the nursing care provided:
In hospitals in “the top quartile of the ratio of nurses to patient-days,” 66% of patients rated their hospital experience as a 9 or 10 out of 10, whereas only 61% of patients gave high scores to hospitals in the lowest quartile. The difference was statistically significant. Researchers noted that patient satisfaction may be a direct result of nursing care (Kennedy, 2009b).
As one can see, through compassion and proper education in the sphere of medical care nurses may affect the state of health of their patients enormously, so they should not forget about that while conducting their everyday nursing activity – it may turn out to be much more influential than they would suppose. According to Carol (2009), “caregivers whose patients received aggressive care had tripled the risk of major depression than those whose patients didn’t receive it”. For this reason nursing should be recognized as a unique calling and not as a position of an assistant performing second-rate assistant work, as the influence on the patients’ satisfaction and quality of life may be dramatic. A nurse should not forget about the range of responsibilities he/she has and has to perform them with dignity, remembering that the stake is a human life and quality of life.
- Carol, P. (2009). End-of-Life Conversations Benefit Patients and Caregivers. AJN, American Journal of Nursing: 2009, Vol. 109, Issue 2, p. 21.
- Kennedy, S. (2009a). Climate change may stress the U.S. public health system. AJN, American Journal of Nursing: 2009, Vol. 109, Issue 1, p. 21.
- Kennedy, S. (2009b). NewsCAP: Patients’ satisfaction with their hospital stays correlates with the nursing care they receive. AJN, American Journal of Nursing: 2009, Vol. 109, Issue 2, p. 22.
- Koenig, H. J. (2007). Spirituality in Patient Care: Why, How, When, and What. West Conshohoken: Templeton Foundation Press, 264 pp.
- McSherry, Wilfried (2006). Making Sense of Spirituality in Nursing and Health Care Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 216 pp.
- O’Brien, M. E. (2008). Spirituality in Nursing: Standing on Holy Ground. Sadbury: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 423 pp.
- Rogers, G. (2004). Making Sense of Spirituality in Nursing Practice—An Interactive Approach.
- Rolley, J., Chang, A. & Johnson, A. (2008). Spirituality and the nurse: engaging in human suffering, hope and meaning. In E. Chang & A. Johnson (Eds.). Chronic illness and disability. Principles for nursing practice, Chatswood: Elsevier, pp.33-49.
- Yarbro, C.H., Goodman, M., Frogge, M.H. (2005). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing, 177 pp.