Happy National Nurses Week! Every year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes the impact and achievements of the nursing profession during the week of May 6-12. This year’s theme is “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate”, a reference to America’s 3.9 million registered nurses (RNs).[i] According to the 2017 National Nursing Workforce Survey, RNs are the largest single occupational group in healthcare.[ii]
Surveys show that nursing is also America’s most trusted profession. According to polling by Gallup, 84% of Americans said they rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “very high” or “high” in 2018. In fact, Americans have been telling Gallup they trust nurses more than any other professionals for 17 years running.[iii]
That’s probably because nurses play such an important role in healthcare in every setting, and many people can think of a time when a nurse had a positive impact on their lives. Here are four ways nurses’ roles in healthcare support their high levels of trust from the public.
Nurses Put the “Care” in “Healthcare”
In a hospital setting, RNs often provide more direct, one-to-one patient care than any other practitioner. While physicians and other specialists direct overall care plans and consult with patients, it’s nurses who are there late at night during a hospital stay. Whether they’re performing an additional health assessment on a new symptom, bringing a patient a drink of water, or offering an understanding ear to a worried family member, nurses are the face of healthcare.
Nurses are Patient Advocates
One of the most important roles nurses play is that of patient advocates who work to ensure each of their patients receive the highest-quality care possible and that patients’ rights are respected within healthcare settings.
Advocacy can be on the individual level—for example, a nurse might help a patient make the case for a different pain medication to a physician based on an assessment and understanding of the patient’s needs. Advocacy can also be about supporting policies that protect every patient’s rights, such as raising awareness about discrimination within healthcare at the local or national level.
Patient advocacy isn’t just something nurses do out of the goodness of their hearts, either: the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics and many state boards of nursing require nurses to act as advocates for the rights of their patients.[iv]
Nurses Empower Patients and Their Families
Nurses don’t just care for patients. They find ways to involve patients in making informed decisions about their own care. This means developing a trusted relationship with patients and their family caretakers. It also means providing information about:
- Their health conditions
- Their current treatment options, and the pros and cons of each one
- Which specialists or providers can provide their preferred or best-practice treatment options
- Strategies for effectively managing their conditions at home
- How to make healthier lifestyle choices that support wellbeing
Patient empowerment isn’t just about making patients feel like they have a say, either. According to a 2012 Health Standards article, “If patient engagement were a drug, it would be the blockbuster drug of the century and malpractice not to use it.” Multiple studies show that empowering patients leads to reduced costs, fewer hospital admissions, and shorter hospital stays.[v]
Nurses are Trained Clinicians
Finally, every RN brings at least two years of clinical training to his or her work. At Altierus, our student nurses build their skills and knowledge on the theoretical level in classes and on a practical level in simulation labs and practice sessions. Finally, students put skills into practice in a real-world environment during clinical rotations in healthcare facilities.
In addition to earning a degree, RNs also need to pass a national examination (the National Council Licensing Examination, or NCLEX-RN) and gain licensure from a state nursing board. Nursing licensure requirements consider an applicant’s ethical behavior as well as his or her education and exam scores. By the time they’re employed in a healthcare facility, nurses have already had to demonstrate high levels of competence, trustworthiness, and reliability.