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The World Needs to Know: Nurses are Smart, Skilled and Saving Lives Daily

Posted Nov 03 2008 9:02pm

This week belongs to us. Yes, this is National Nurses’ Week, a week set aside to honor our profession and bring attention to what we do. National recognition is a good thing but I daresay a week’s time won’t come close to enlightening John Q. Public as to the scope and importance of our work. I would venture a guess that the majority of the non-medical public still views nurses in the role of the doctor’s helpmate, following orders and unqualified to make critical, lifesaving decisions.

There is a current movement afoot that encourages nurses to toot our own horns, so to speak, and especially to cease minimizing the importance of our work. There is even a book that will guide us in effective ways to tout our accomplishments and to get over the "Aw, shucks, it was nothing" mentality that rears its ugly head when we are complimented on a job well done. The book is "From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Must Know and Communicate to the Public".

The book is filled with anecdotal examples of statements the way they were spoken and revisions of those statements to demonstrate what should have been said. I was dismayed to learn that, in my own subtle way, I have been doing my share of minimizing our expertise. An example cited a nurse’s response to a patient’s thanking her for explaining his diabetic diet and its importance in controlling his diabetes. The nurse replied, "Oh, it’s nothing. It’s my job," when she should have said, "I am glad that I was able to give you a clearer understanding of how important your diet is in controlling your diabetes. Do you have other questions I can answer for you?"

Yes, I am guilty, but I didn’t realize that, by being modest, I was trivializing what I do. I can certainly see that responding in detail makes the patient aware that valuable knowledge was required in order for the nurse to impart to him the information he needed.

I should have been following these guidelines long ago. Based on the occasional comment, my own mother and sister seem to view nursing as a less than challenging career, one that doesn’t require much in the way of brain power. From now on they’re going to be hearing more details and more play-by-plays of what a nurse does in a day.

There is more I want to say about nurses deserving publicity and recognition for their extraordinary accomplishments, but that will have to be in another post. Until then, make sure everyone knows that there can be no substitute for your knowledge, skill and expertise.

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