The nursing profession is celebrating National Nursing Week May 7 to 13, 2012. This year’s theme is “Nursing, the Health of our Nation”. This will mean different things to different people depending on one’s personal or professional experience within the health care system.
Traditionally, nurses were viewed by the general public as the 24/7 direct caregivers for ill patients in an Acute Care hospital with little direct influence over the general health of our communities. A small contingency of Public health nurses performed basic health promotion and prevention particularly for school–age children. Due to the “fatal availability” of 24/7 nursing model in hospitals, nurses were often called upon to provide after hours services for other professions and support services who generally worked daytime hours. Depending on the location, this could mean performing physiotherapy treatment, starting the porridge at 6 am or checking gauges in the boiler room while the rest of the world slept or enjoyed weekends off. This led to feelings of increasing frustration as the scope of practice, research-based best practices and technological advances propelled nursing into a scientific-based approach to patient/client care. In order to better care for our clients, we needed to critically think through the process of assessment, nursing diagnosis, make a plan and evaluate the results of our intervention. Advances in health care and the need to provide care along the continuum required a dramatic shift in focus.
New educational standards encouraged those of us with diplomas into under-graduate degree programs that fortunately is now readily available by long distance. Registered Nurses can now claim some credit hours for the many hours of rich experience obtained at the bedside working alongside other inter-disciplinary team members such as physicians, dieticians, physio-and respiratory therapists, social workers, etc. The need for an increasing and varied knowledge base for educational, clinical and leadership roles now demand a Masters or PhD education and has provided the necessary leverage for executing change in healthcare.
I applaud those who are moving forward with these commitments to lead our profession into becoming a pro-active influence of healthcare in our province. Nurses really do care about their clients and want to deliver patient and family focused care that result in the best outcome for clients whether in hospital, community or participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program. Nursing plays a role in the many aspects of health — in areas such as diabetes education, lactation consultant, HIV and clinical education, pulmonary and cardiac rehab, team-based nurse practitioner, travel nursing, occupational health, palliative, home care, mental health, infection control, chemotherapy, air ambulance, management and CEO of health regions.
While I am in the twilight of my nursing career and must soon turn the page into my next life of opportunities, I am thankful I am a member of a profession who in increasingly influencing the health of the citizens of our communities. Happy Nurses Week to my many colleagues in Sunrise!
Donna Milbrandt, RN
Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association