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How Nurses Make a Difference

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Vocational Nursing graduate
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Nurses are a critical part of the health care system. They make sure patients and their families receive the best possible care, regardless of the type of environment they're in. Their acts of kindness have even been shown to improve the outcome (1) for the patient. Discover all of the ways that nurses make a difference in the community.

How Nurses Make a Difference in the Community

Improving Care

Nurses play critical roles in hospitals' efforts to improve the quality of patient care. Nurses are at the front lines, improving the medical outcomes for patients by decreasing the likelihood that they will acquire pneumonia as a result of their hospital stay, decreasing the time that patients stay in hospitals, and reducing the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis and pressure ulcers. Nurses even help to decrease mortality rates.

Outside of just making sure that a patient's needs are met, there is another way in which nurses can benefit their patients as well: education. Becoming a nurse, whether someone is pursuing a career as an LPN, LVN, or RN, requires a strong educational foundation. While registered nurses must have either an associate or bachelor's degree to enter the workforce, practical and vocational nurses only need to complete a diploma program. However, their education doesn't stop there. Most states require some type of continuing education every two or three years in order to maintain their nursing license. In the rare case that a state doesn't require continuing education for licensure, it's still often required by the hospital that the nurses work for.

The benefit of this continuing education has a trickle-down effect that benefits the patients and other hospital staff. The new techniques and advancements in medication and technology that nurses learn about through continuing education enhance the service that the hospital provides and the quality of care that patients receive.

Teaching the Community

Public health nurses improve and impact the health of the entire community in which they work and live. These nurses speak to large groups of people about various health issues and improve the health and safety of those people by giving them greater access to quality care. They may go into schools and talk to groups of students about issues that are specifically affecting their health. They may also speak to community organizations or work at local events, answering questions and letting people know about different health opportunities that are available to them.

These nurses also monitor the trends for their communities and identify the greatest risks for the local populations. By better understanding the risks, they can implement educational campaigns and set up events that give their local communities access to both screenings and immunizations.

Improving Health Literacy for Individuals

Health literacy (2) is the degree to which people have the ability to obtain, process, and ultimately understand basic information about their health in order to make appropriate health decisions. It could include being able to read and understand prescription bottles, appointment slips, and other health-related materials. Having adequate health literacy increases an individual's ability to take responsibility for their own health as well as the health of their family.

In the U.S., 88% of adults (3) have health literacy limitations. While that number may be stocking to read, it doesn't stop there. Over one-third of adults in the United States, 77 million people, struggle with self-and family-care management tasks. It comes as no surprise then that people who have low health literacy are far more likely to experience a poor health status.

Nurses make health literacy a primary focus of their file, which helps to enhance patient care, improve patient safety, and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for the patient. Nurses are able to integrate patient health literacy efforts into their interactions with patients, creating a judgment-free environment where they can review medical terminology with the patient, using non-clinical terms to ensure that the patient fully understands what's happening to them.

Nurses can also have candid conversations with patients about aftercare when they leave the hospital, explaining the steps that the patient needs to take for their own care and why it's so important. In addition, nurses can use these one-on-one interactions to discuss other areas of a patient's health, bringing up topics like diet and exercise and proper hygiene, if warranted. By engaging in health literacy conversations with patients, nurses are able to empower those individuals to make more educated decisions and will ultimately increase the likelihood of a positive outcome when the patient is out of the hospital.

Advocating for Others

Nurses have extensive experience in taking care of patients and carrying out protocols and procedures in a hospital setting. This makes it easy for them to recognize in what ways the hospital policies are improving the health of patients. Nurses play a pivotal role in shaping hospital-wide policies, identifying approaches that will more effectively help patients and families.

Nurses do not stop advocating for patients at the hospital level, either. Nurses, particularly public health nurses, coordinate with state and federal authorities to help patients and improve the quality of health care that's available in local communities and around the world. They are also responsible for making it easier for people who are underserved by their communities to get access to the quality health care services that they need.

Serving as Patient Advocates

In addition to sharing their extensive knowledge to educate both patients and the general public, registered nurses and LPNs also serve as patient advocates, ensuring their patients' concerns are addressed by physicians and other medical professionals. Nurses can also explain to a patient what is happening to them, taking the confusion and fear out of unknown procedures.

Nurses are also able to point out to physicians different problems to physicians when they are performing their rounds. These issues could potentially have been overlooked by the physician because of the limited amount of time they have to spend with the patient. In this way, nurses can reduce the likelihood of mistakes or misdiagnoses, as physicians have a medical professional with the patient at all times gathering information.

They also serve as patient advocates by working to preserve the dignity of their patients. A nurse can empathize with patients, helping them to feel like they are a person as opposed to just a diagnosis. Nurses can help patients feel safer and more like a human.

Nurses ensure that they are not only treated respectfully but also that their ethnic and cultural beliefs are respected. They are committed to providing the same level of compassion and professionalism for every patient. Nurses also do their best to manage or prevent their patients from suffering, whether the pain that they're feeling is mental, physical, or emotional.

Offering Emotional Support

Nurses understand that being admitted to the hospital is stressful for patients and almost every patient has some level of fear. Their fear could be that they don't have answers to all of their questions or because they don't quite know what to expect in the coming hours or days. When a patient is feeling fearful, they often need help to manage their anxiety and stress.

Nurses can offer compassion and humor to ease the fears of their patients. They also provide a certain amount of security and comfort, which can help patients feel like they have greater control over their current circumstances. The support nurses provide can be invaluable for the well-being and health of their patients. Small gestures can make a big impact in the lives of their patients. Even something as small as answering a request for assistance with a genuine smile can ease a patient's fears and improve their day.

Improving the Lives of Families

Nurses impact more than just the lives of their patients. They also improve the lives of the patients' families. Nurses make sure that the families of the patients are both seen and heard. They offer genuine, welcoming smiles, provide chairs so the family can sit with their loved ones, offer to get coffee or water, or encourage family members to hold the hands of the patient while they're sleeping. Nurses understand that these are small gestures. However, they also recognize that families are suffering right along with the patient and that the same compassion and empathy is needed.

While caring for multiple patients and seeing to the needs of multiple families keeps nurses busy, these small, simple gestures create a ripple effect that can profoundly impact the lives of everyone around them.

Improving the Lives of Co-Workers

Not only do nurses work to create an impact in the lives of their patients, but they also do the same for their colleagues. Nurses help out when they see that a colleague is overwhelmed, helping with the patient admission process, getting a patient settled into a hospital bed, or even just getting them something to eat or drink to make them more comfortable. These small gestures may only take minutes, but they can make a big difference in another medical professional's day.

Volunteering in Their Communities

Nurses commit much of their time to help patients in a hospital or other type of health care setting. However, they often serve their communities in other ways as well outside of the hospital. A study in the journal Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice (4) suggests that 80% of the 315 nurses that were surveyed help improve the health of their community outside of a health care environment.

Some volunteer the medical knowledge, others educate the public on the importance of vaccinations and hand-washing, and others give guidance on exercise and nutrition. Others may even volunteer for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, which may not require nursing-specific skills, but do call for the same qualities that nurses bring to work with them every day, such as empathy, teamwork, the ability to effectively multi-task, and an understanding of how our living conditions impact our mental and physical well-being.

Supporting the Medical System

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (5), there are over 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide, with over 200,000 new registered nurse positions protected to be created between 2016 and 2026. In 2015, there were nearly 1.1 million doctors (6) of medicine in the U.S., a figure that included an estimated 160,000 inactive physicians and approximately 55,000 who were unclassified. Using those numbers, that would put the ratio of nurses to doctors at 38 nurses for every 11 doctors.

Without nurses, there is no way that physicians, even with other medical personnel, could provide the level of quality care that patients expect when they go into the hospital or another type of health care environment. While nurses often go above and beyond in the interest of caring for their patients, nurses are critical for ensuring that patients' basic needs are met while they are in the hospital.

The role of nurses has evolved over the years. Nurses today make a difference for communities and patients all around the world, caring for those who are hurt or sick, offering kindness and compassion, and improving their health literacy to empower them to take better care of themselves. They also work outside of the health care environment, serving their communities in other capacities and advocating for patients by recommending new local, state, and federal policies.

As the role of nurses continues to evolve, one thing remains very clear: The demand for nurses is going to continue to remain high. If you are interested in training for a career in nursing, Concorde can help. Depending on your program, you can gain the credentials and skills you need to begin a rewarding health care career in as few as 12 months. Learn more about the Concorde nursing programs today.

Footnotes

  1. "PATIENT PERSPECTIVE: Nurses Make the Difference," May/June 2009, Volume:32 Number 3, page 216-217. https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=865572&Journal_ID=54035&Issue_ID=865548
  2. "Health Literacy," HealthyPeople.gov, https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/health-literacy
  3. "Call for action: Nurses must play a critical role to enhance health literacy," Nursing Outlook, https://www.nursingoutlook.org/article/S0029-6554(17)30628-0/fulltext
  4. "Nurses Improve Their Communities' Health Where They Live, Learn, Work, and Play," First Published March 17, 2017. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1527154417698142
  5. "Nursing Fact Sheet," American Association of Colleges of Nursing. https://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/Nursing-Fact-Sheet
  6. "U.S. Physicians - Statistics & Facts." Statistica Research Department, November 28, 2019. https://www.statista.com/topics/1244/physicians/
  7. "Image," gm.esthermax. https://www.flickr.com/photos/esthermax/27649754016/sizes/m/
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