What are nurses saying?


I have been intrigued lately with what nurses are saying in public arenas and how it reflects our practices. Many nurses blog or journal about their work, and while some of it serves to accurately portray the workplace issues we face, some of it may also be damaging to our profession and our image, serving to keep us stuck and in need of emancipation versus moving us toward freedom and autonomy as a profession.

Take the following blog post, created by a nurse known only as Brownie3,  which seems at first glance to portray some of the issues we face as nursing. http://brownie83.hubpages.com/hub/10-Things-Nurses-Dont-Want-You-to-Know

Despite it’s title of “10 Things Nurses Don’t Want You to Know”, the blog reflects a keen desire to begin to inform and partner with patients, creating a venue for discussing with the public what nurses do. Why is it that we would perhaps not want our patients to know our profession and our challenges better? In many ways the blog clearly reflects the face of modern nurse as somewhat distanced and harried, un-empowered, and it provides background for why we must act in a reductionistic manner with our patients; we simply have too many demands, too much stress to “perform”, and legal constraints, such as on the use of patient names. The issues with pain medication and the nurse’s desire for the patient’s to be “sincere” in their needs reads very judgmental. However, my greatest concern is that the blog fails to portray what I believe we charged with as nurses: to provide caring, non-judgmental, presence at the bedside that supports the patient’s healing journey. There is no inkling of the idea that the nurse is there to share the journey and no clue to the idea that nurses are guided in their decisions by nursing theory and evidence based practices. Of course, as one of my colleagues pointed out, this is just one person’s experience, but when the statements are broadly placed to all of nursing, it becomes a concern for all of us professionally.

The next entry I looked at this week was from an intensive care nurse who wrote the blog as a fairly new graduate nurse. Diary of an Intensive Care Nurse begins to reflect the many troublesome issues nurses face in providing care in the highly technological world of the ICU: http://nypost.com/2012/12/09/diary-of-an-intensive-care-nurse/

While Nurse McConnell makes a clear portrayal of the issues in ICU around the country, there is something lacking here. One thing missing is the use of evidence to back up some of these statements; for instance there is some great evidence out there about what harm the ICU does, but it is not included here and in some ways the personal experience, while very valuable, could be better validated with use of data. Also, there is a lack of a solution; while the nurse calls for change in ICU settings, what and how that change might be is unclear. Again, there is plenty of evidence to suggest earlier palliative care and use of hospice at end of life greatly change end of life outcomes, and many more patients are opting for these services. My thought is that perhaps the writer is not yet keenly aware that these options exist and we should be striving toward greater use of these options for all people, or incorporating some of these more holistic and caring approaches into ICU type care.

While we want all nurses to have a voice, we also need to support one another in developing the best ways to express our concerns for the profession, and our plans for creating change. One thing I think is for certain: as nurses, we all should ideally support greater levels of education for our nurses, so that every nurses understands how evidence and theory drive practice, they each grasp the ethical implications of their practices, and they all can be supported in meeting their true call to nursing. The greatest joy in our profession is in the supporting of each patient’s healing capacity across the lifespan and through the death experience.