The Positive Effect of Nurses on Health
By Shanna Shafer RN, BSN
Shanna Shafer RN, BSN is driven by the impact nursing, and nursing education, can have on the health of our patients, families, communities, and nation. She has almost ten years of nursing experience in a variety of settings, and currently serves as the Managing Editor at BestNursingDegree.com
As a nurse, it happens time and again, that I am reminded of exactly why I chose my profession. It has happened in the midst of rolling a sedated patient in the middle of the night, taking care not to disturb the fresh skin grafts covering her body. It has happened while I was looking into the sky blue eyes of a patient with end stage Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer, simply because I could see the smile behind the delusion. And this week, it happened again.
I got the message that my sister was being admitted to the hospital, yet again, toward the end of my day on Friday. It had been a good week at work, with new projects and endeavors to enhance the world of nursing and nursing education progressing well. I had just been blessed with the opportunity to write a weekly piece for BestNursingDegree.com, and had already begun to think of what nursing issue I wanted to tackle next, when I got word.
“Your sister’s cultures came back, and the pulmonologist wants her to go in right away for IV therapy.”
This is nothing new, as my sister has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that severely affects the respiratory and digestive systems, and which, eventually, creates significant dysfunction within all body systems. It’s not new. But it still hits hard each time.
As I tried to hold back my emotion, I thought about how I could take this change in her health status, and make it relevant to nursing and nursing education. She is, after all, one of the reasons I became a nurse. I thought about this. I thought about the lovely moments I have had with my sister, and I tried not to think about how many moments she might have left. And then, I thought about how small moments can have a large impact.
I thought about the nurses that would be caring for her while she powered through yet another round of IVs, hospital food, diet orders, chest percussion, aerosol treatments, port flushing, insulin shots, blood draws and the like. How would the nurses treat her? Would they care for her safely and advocate for her? Would they smile and laugh with her? Would they respect her, and her own knowledge of what she needed to get well? Would they listen to her when she told them that she did not need a diabetic diet? Would they know that Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes (CFRD) is different than Type I or Type II?
Would they know that she is different? Because she is different. She is my sister. She is special to me.
Every patient is different. But as nurses, we must also remember that despite the differences, they all have one thing in common. Every patient is special. Because every patient is someone’s daughter, son, brother, sister, granddaughter, mother, aunt, cousin, neighbor, spouse…and every patient, just like every moment, matters.
Every patient is deserving of the best nursing care we can give them. As a nurse, you can make an impact in a patient’s life, in a matter of moments. Even in moments when you may be busy, flustered, stressed, and frustrated. In that moment when your 25 year old patient refuses her diabetic diet, asking for two milks and double portions, despite the fact that you just gave her 10 units of insulin, you can make an impact.
Each moment in nursing has the opportunity for impact.
My sister has been sending me updates throughout her stay, letting me know how things are going. And letting me know about the impact her nurses have.
“My nurse today is something else. I had to talk to the charge nurse…after she didn’t check on me for two hours. She wouldn’t cover my port for my shower, just handed me the cover and said ‘Oh, you can do that, right?’. And I had to remind her to flush with saline and all sorts of little things.”
“My nurse is very good today. She’s professional and caring. A little stiff, but at least she knows what she’s doing.”
Thankfully, over two and a half decades of living with CF, my sister has developed the self-advocacy necessary for a safe and effective hospital stay, and she is not afraid to educate her own nurses. While I have been thinking of my sister, and trying to apply the situation to nursing education, I keep returning to the moments of impact. These moments include the times when our patients make an impact on us. And that is where it all comes full circle. I became a nurse because I wanted to make a positive impact, and what I’ve found over the years, is that it is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Each moment in nursing has the opportunity for impact. We change our patients’ lives, and they can change ours as well. That is why I became a nurse. And in this moment, I remember that I can have an impact. An impact on patients and families, on communities, on my profession, on nursing education, and hopefully, on those of you thinking about becoming a nurse.
I told my sister I had to write an article, and asked her what she thought nurses needed to know in order to care well for her and for other patients. She recommended that I write about how to really care for a patient. I will do that. Because that can make an impact, I believe.
“Try imagining being in their shoes, and then care for them that way.”
Small moments can have lasting impacts. If you are a nurse, or considering becoming a nurse, I hope that this is one of those moments. Think about the impact you can have on patients…on people. Think of the impact you can make just by holding the hand of a frightened child, as he is wheeled into surgery. Consider the impact you can have on a wife, sitting at her husband’s bedside for days, just waiting to hear some good news. What of the impact you could make by asking a young woman about her disease, helping her to get into the shower, and considering what it might be like to be in her shoes.
How can you make an impact? Consider the impact you can make in your community, in your children’s schools, and in the many healthcare facilities across the nation as a nurse. And then, take a moment and consider the impact that becoming a nurse can have, or has had, on your own life. What impact can patients have on your own life? What can be learned from caring for others? What impact can working to improve the health of others have on you? Everyone’s answer will be different, but here is mine: