Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on June 20, 2021
The Front Line of Healthcare
From the hospital to your doctor’s office to your child’s school, nurses fill a range of healthcare roles. Often, nurses are the providers people interact with the most. They’ve seen and heard just about everything. Here’s what our experts want you to know about their profession and their advice for you.
1. “Nurses take pride in the professional standards they maintain.”
The term “nurse” covers various professionals providing different levels of care. And they all take pride in their profession. Nurses can start at entry-level positions as LPNs (licensed practical nurse) or begin as RNs (registered nurse) with a bachelor’s degree. Nurses can earn graduate degrees and work in advanced practice settings. Mary Barton, APN explains, “APNs (advanced practice nurses) are RNs who have gone on for additional education and experience. They can order tests, diagnose, prescribe, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed.”
2. “The unique role of nurses deserves respect.”
While nurses are known for the personal nature of their care, they also spend years mastering the scientific knowledge of their profession. Monica Sweeney, APN, CNP points out, “We are here to serve you, but that isn’t our primary role. We are healthcare providers first.” Mary Barton adds, “Our role is to engage patients in decisions about their healthcare and keep them focused on their ongoing health.” As a nursing department head, Judy Balcitis, RN, MSN agrees, “I’m here to teach you how to care for yourself. I want to be a good teacher, so please tell me if you don’t understand.”
3. “Nurses put the heart in healthcare.”
Along with the medical care they provide, nurses also want you to know one basic truth that carries through all levels of nursing: nurses are caring. Mary Barton believes her profession “puts the heart in healthcare.” Judy Balcitis heads the Nursing Department at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. She and fellow nurses Marian Zmuda, RN, BSN and Nannette Jones, RN, BSN sum it up this way: “I want to know what really matters to you. Caring, compassion, comfort, and respect for your wishes are of utmost importance to me.”
4. “I consider it a privilege to partner with you.”
Often, nurses are the healthcare team members you see most, which is why they consider themselves a partner as much as a provider. Judy Balcitis says she and the nurses in her department look at it this way: “I care about you and your health. Your care is a partnership that includes you, your loved ones, and your healthcare team.” Nurses want you to know you aren’t in this alone. They will do their part—and you need to do yours—to make the partnership work.
5. “We take you and your health problems home with us.”
Being a nurse isn’t always easy. Sometimes, nurses have to be tough. Rhonda Angel, RN, BSN is a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse who works with critically ill newborns. In her role, she says, “The baby is always our first priority. We need to make decisions that don’t always make us popular. For example, holding your baby may have to wait several weeks and we may have to say ‘no’ for now.” As a former ICU nurse, Monica Sweeney says, “Caring for people who are very sick or dying affects us. But we have to keep it together to do our job.”
6. “Your health and safety are my first priority.”
Nurses consistently express the idea of putting their patients’ needs first. The nurses at Advocate Sherman Hospital emphasize, “Your safety is my priority.” Rhonda Angel and Monica Sweeney concur. They want you to know the person in the hospital bed is their focus and priority, whether it’s a 90-year-old grandmother or a 9-day old baby. As Monica Sweeney says, “Your family members are important, but your (own) health and well-being comes first. My main concern is caring for you.”
7. “It’s important to be realistic about pain.”
Sometimes pain is part of the recovery process. And your nurse is there to get you through it. This may mean they have to push you to do things you might not feel like doing. Nursing VP Judy Balcitis explains, “Walking and deep breathing are often essential to your recovery. And being pain-free is not always possible. But I promise to do everything I can to control your pain.” Monica Sweeney adds, “Resist over- or underestimating your pain so we can set achievable pain relief goals.”
8. “You need one doctor who coordinates your care.”
Nurses stress the importance of having coordinated healthcare. Care can become fragmented when you have a hospital stay or see many different specialists. Nurses are a resource to keep your care coordinated. But they also recommend having one doctor who is in charge of your care. Natalie Garry, GNP puts it this way: “You need a captain of the ship.” For many adults, an internal medicine doctor fills this role. Natalie Garry urges people older than 80 to see a geriatrician to coordinate their healthcare and work with other specialists.
9. “Carry an updated medication list at all times.”
“Medication issues are one of the biggest problems I see,” says Monica Sweeney. Nurse practitioner Natalie Garry agrees. She sees many people on multiple medicines, some of which may be doing more harm than good. “For someone with memory problems, a drug the cardiologist prescribed might actually be causing more problems,” she says. Like many nurses, Garry spends much of her time teaching people about their medicines and helping them stay on track with the ones they really need.
10. “Be sure your doctor’s advice makes sense for you.”
Natalie Garry is passionate about her patients getting the right care. She works with older people and explains, “As people age, especially when they’re 80 or older, screening tests and surgery may not always be necessary.” She values second opinions to confirm a diagnosis or when patients are considering a procedure. She recommends, “Older people should bring a younger family member or friend to their appointments.” This person can offer support and a different perspective, along with a second set of ears to help understand what the doctor says.
11. “Knowledge is power, so ask questions.”
As a former ICU nurse and a current nurse practitioner, Monica Sweeney advises patients to ask questions—lots of questions. She tells patients, “Make lists and write down everything you want to ask.” She also encourages people to make their healthcare wishes known to their doctors and family members. “Formalize your wishes for medical care and end-of-life care through living wills and advance directives, in case you can’t express them yourself.”
12. “Each person and circumstance is different.”
People get their healthcare information from all kinds of sources these days. It’s important to educate yourself, but you need to understand every person is different. Monica Sweeney explains, “You are an individual, and each person reacts differently to health problems. Information you read may not apply to you.” NICU nurse Rhonda Angel has similar advice for the parents of her newborn patients. “It’s fine to talk to other parents in your situation,” she says, ”but know that each baby is different. Rely on your healthcare staff to offer the best advice for your circumstances.”
12 Things Your Nurse Wants You to Know
As a nurse, you'll want to be familiar with the patient's plan of care. You can often find this information in the physician's progress notes. If you take time to read what physicians have been documenting about the patient, it can help give you a better understanding of how to care for your patient.What is the most important thing a nurse should know? ›
The key to being a successful nurse is communication.
Communication skills are one of the most important requirements of a nurse's job—both following directions and communicating with patients and families. Patients who are sick or suffering often are not in a position of strength to speak up for themselves.
Caring is best demonstrated by a nurse's ability to embody the five core values of professional nursing. Core nursing values essential to baccalaureate education include human dignity, integrity, autonomy, altruism, and social justice. The caring professional nurse integrates these values in clinical practice.What are 10 things nurses do? ›
- Conduct physical exams.
- Take detailed health care histories.
- Listen to patients and analyze their physical and emotional needs.
- Provide counseling and health care education to patients.
- Coordinate care with other health care providers and specialists.
Culturally competent care consists of four components: awareness of one's cultural worldview, attitudes toward cultural differences, knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and cross-cultural skills.What are the 5 major functions of the nurse? ›
- Perform physical exams and health histories before making critical decisions.
- Provide health promotion, counseling and education.
- Administer medications and other personalized interventions.
- Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of health care professionals.
- Caring. ...
- Communication Skills. ...
- Empathy. ...
- Attention to Detail. ...
- Problem Solving Skills. ...
- Stamina. ...
- Sense of Humor. ...
- Commitment to Patient Advocacy.
The 6 Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, competence - are a central part of 'Compassion in Practice', which was first established by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, in December 2017.What are the 5 types of nursing knowledge? ›
Five discrete types of nursing knowledge that nurses use in practice emerged: personal practice knowledge, theoretical knowledge, procedural knowl- edge, ward cultural knowledge and reflexive knowledge.What mistakes should a nurse never make? ›
- Forgetting to turn on the bed alarm for a patient at high risk for falls.
- Incorrectly programming an IV pump resulting in underdosing or overdosing.
- Failing to report a change in a patient's condition.
- Medication errors.
- Inaccurate documentation.
It's structured around four themes – prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety and promote professionalism and trust.What are 3 things nurses do? ›
Preparing patients for exams and treatment. Administering medications and treatments, then monitoring patients for side effects and reactions. Creating, implementing, and evaluating patient care plans with the medical team. Performing wound care, such as cleaning and bandaging them.What skills does every nurse have? ›
- Communication skills. No matter which type of nursing role you wind up in, communication will be a critical part of your job. ...
- Critical thinking. ...
- Patient assessment. ...
- Empathy. ...
- Urgent care. ...
- Physical endurance. ...
- Technology skills.
Business Insider asked nurses to share the hardest parts of their job. Many said seeing patients die after doing everything to care for them is the hardest part. Other challenges include long shifts, having to use time-consuming technology, and a lack of respect from other people in the healthcare industry.What are the three priorities of nursing care? ›
- Airway, breathing, and circulation (ABCs),
- Maslow's hierarchy of needs (basic needs first, see Figure 1 below),
- Nursing Process (see Figure 2 below),
- Time-sensitive indicators that are relevant in the acute care setting.
The four ways of knowing are empirics—the science of nursing, esthetics—the art of nursing, the component of personal knowledge in nursing, and ethics—the component of moral knowledge in nursing.What are the 9 essential in nursing? ›
The nine essentials are liberal education, basic organizational and systems leadership for quality care and patient safety, scholarship for evidence based practice, information management, health care policy, interprofessional communication and collaboration, clinical prevention, professionalism and baccalaureate ...What are the 4 domains of nurses? ›
There are four fields of nursing: adult nursing • children's nursing • learning disabilities nursing • mental health nursing.What are the 7 A's nursing? ›
This article outlines how using the Seven A's (awareness, accessibility, affordability, appropriateness, adequacy, acceptability, and availability) can help nurses and agencies effectively determine the fit between older adults and community support agencies.What are the Big Five personality traits nurse? ›
- Extroversion. This factor reflects the degree to which people interact with others and their levels of comfort and assertiveness in these situations. ...
- Agreeableness. ...
- Openness. ...
- Conscientiousness. ...
- Neuroticism. ...
- Engaging Coping Strategies. ...
- Disengagement Coping Strategies.
For nursing applicants, specifically, our experts said they're typically looking for strengths like flexibility, a team player, extremely organized, multitasking, leadership abilities, creative problem-solving, an excellent communicator, or curiosity about learning new things.What does integrity mean in nursing? ›
Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and fair. It involves possessing high moral principles. When faced with challenges as a nurse, the professional's integrity is what will keep him or her standing tall.How do you rock a nursing interview? ›
- Know where you're going. Healthcare facilities are often big and confusing. ...
- Dress professionally. Professional attire tells interviewers you take them and the job seriously.
- Rehearse your nursing interview questions. Don't just prep answers. ...
- Pamper yourself. ...
- Listen and take notes.
The three main categories of nursing theories are grand nursing theories, middle-range nursing theories and practice-level nursing theories. Different levels of nursing theories may influence others.Who are the highest paid nurses? ›
What is the highest-paid nurse? Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists! Earning $195,610 annually, CRNAs earn significantly more than any other type of nurse or nursing specialty.What are nurses unhappy about? ›
Some research suggests that working more than 40 hours per week and working longer shifts are strongly correlated to increased reports of burnout. Many nurses have experienced verbal abuse from patients and dont feel safe anymore at work. All of these factors can lead to nurse burnout and unhappy nurses.What is an unprofessional nurse? ›
Practicing outside the scope of your employment and/or your scope of practice as defined by your state nurse practice act. Breaching nurse-patient confidentiality. Falsifying records kept in your nursing practice. Crossing professional boundaries. Being rude or insubordinate to others in the workplace.What are the 4 P's of prioritization nursing? ›
It's based on the 4 P's of nursing: Pain, Potty, Position and Periphery.What are the 10 nursing ethical values? ›
Results: The search yielded 10 nursing ethical values: Human dignity, privacy, justice, autonomy in decision making, precision and accuracy in caring, commitment, human relationship, sympathy, honesty, and individual and professional competency.What are two core values in nursing? ›
Core values of nursing include altruism, autonomy, human dignity, integrity, honesty and social justice . The core ethical values are generally shared within the global community, and they are a reflection of the human and spiritual approach to the nursing profession.
Nurses with a positive attitude are expected to provide altruistic service, compassionate care for health customers, to be proud of their profession and able to hold intra and extra professional factors.What are 3 interesting facts of being a nurse? ›
- There are 4.2 million registered nurses and 950,000 LVN's in the United States.
- Registered nurses make up about 2% of the total workforce in the United States.
- There are 4x as many nurses in the United States than physicians.
- Nurses walk—a lot!
Many nurses say that attaining their nursing degree has been their greatest achievement. Others state that forming a family has been their greatest achievement because it has given them a greater understanding of the human experience.What hard skills should a nurse have? ›
- Patient Assessment. ...
- CPR and BLS Skills. ...
- Medication Management. ...
- IV-Line Placement and Infusions. ...
- Patient Safety and Infection Control. ...
- Charting on the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) ...
- Communication. ...
There are five components to the nurse-client relationship: trust, respect, professional intimacy, empathy and power. Regardless of the context, length of interaction and whether a nurse is the primary or secondary care provider, these components are always present.What is the most stressful type of nursing? ›
The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.How do nurses handle stressful situations? ›
Stress management techniques for nurses include deep breathing, meditation, and exercise. Nurses might also explore sleep management and therapy techniques. Nurse leaders should keep in mind the importance of nurse scheduling in managing stress.Do nurses have it harder than doctors? ›
Instead most are more focused on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Is being a nurse harder than being a doctor? No, being a nurse and being a doctor are both equally hard. While they both face different challenges it's hard to look at either profession and say that one is “easier” than the other.What topics are nurses interested in? ›
- Antibiotics impact on childhood immunities.
- Effects of childhood exposure to environmental pollutants.
- Effects of second-hand smoke inhalation in early life.
- Ethics of pediatric care.
- Genetic factors of diabetes in children.
- Has neonatal care improved in the last 50 years?
- Confidence. ...
- Ability to connect the dots. ...
- Critical thinking. ...
- Relation-based care. ...
- Leadership. ...
- Lifelong learning. ...
- Think like a nurse. ...
- Work well with colleagues.
Optimize your patient care
One of a nurse's primary goals is to provide quality care to their patients. Think about ways that you could optimize your current patient care tactics or practices. For example, you could work on becoming a stronger advocate for your patient's individualized needs.
Connecting with patients and making a difference.
The healthcare industry serves a broad spectrum of people, and nurses encounter individuals from all walks of life. Providing comfort and security at times when patients and families are vulnerable is a reward that many people never experience.
- Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
- Pharmacology. ...
- Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
- Evidence-Based Practice.
- Ask Your Teammates Questions. No one expects you to know everything. ...
- Master Your Bedside Manner. How you make patients feel when they are in your care is one of the best ways you can shine as a nurse. ...
- Continue Learning. ...
- Find a Strong Mentor. ...
- Take Care of Yourself.
The four ways of knowing are empirics—the science of nursing, esthetics—the art of nursing, the component of personal knowledge in nursing, and ethics—the component of moral knowledge in nursing.What makes a strong nursing student? ›
Having drive and passion for the field of nursing are some of the most important aspects of a good nursing student. Because nursing school is challenging, passion for the field will help motivate you throughout your education. Passion drives success. Continuously remind yourself of your enthusiasm to help patients.What are your weakness as a nurse? ›
Examples of common nursing weaknesses our experts say they hear include: Paying too much attention to detail. Wanting to do everything at once. Spending too long on paperwork.What are the 5 SMART nursing goals? ›
- Be specific. Setting broad nursing goals allows them to be open for interpretation. ...
- Keep it measurable. For goals to be effective, there must be some way to measure your progress. ...
- Keep it attainable. ...
- Be realistic. ...
- Keep it timely.
The focus is on these four major nursing areas: nursing practice, administration, education, and research.What are the 6 aims of nursing? ›
Its follow-up report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century (2001), introduced the IOM Six Aims for Improvement: care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered (STEEEP).
Kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy, and compassion are components that make you human on a personal level and serve you well as a nurse. You exhibit strong communication skills. You communicate well with patients and colleagues — sometimes at their worst life moments.What motivates me to be a nurse? ›
Many nurses are drawn to the profession because of a sincere desire to help others. These professionals can get a renewed sense of job satisfaction very day as they continue to provide caring and compassionate service to the patients to whom they are assigned.Why do people leave nursing? ›
For many nurses, they are put into difficult situations and often have little time to process or cope. Over time it can take a huge toll on your mental wellbeing and result in nursing staff leaving their career paths to pursue something else.