By Donna Cardillo, RN
National Nurses Week is celebrated from May 6 through May 12, the latter date falling on pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale’s birthday. And since misconceptions, misinformation and misunderstandings abound about the profession, here are a few points to set the record straight.
1. There are 3.1 million RNs in the US. We are the largest group of all health-care professionals and account for up to 70% of a hospital’s staff members.
2. About 7% of all nurses are men. But schools of nursing are reporting that their student nurse body consists of 12-15% men. So, those numbers will be increasing!
3. The Gallup Poll asks annually which group of professionals is perceived as most “ethical and honest.” Since being added to the list in 1999, nurses have ranked #1 every year except for 2001 when firefighters topped the list after the 9/11 tragedy.
4. Many people are coming into nursing today as a second, third or fourth career. They are coming with backgrounds in banking, business, the trades, education, human resources, technology and more.
5. About 60% of the nation’s nurses work in hospitals and other care facilities. The other 40% work in varied settings such as public health, schools, corporations, pharmaceutical companies, wellness centers, law firms, law enforcement agencies, and government agencies, just to name a few.
6. Several studies have shown that when more RNs are present on nursing units, thereby creating lower nurse to patient ratios, the rate of death and complications for those patients goes down. Conversely, when fewer nurses are present, that rate goes up. Recommendations of ratios vary depending on the type of unit/shift/facility, but in many cases is 4-5 patients per nurse (it is much lower in critical care units).
7. Nursing “care” is based on a body of science, research and practice standards unique to the nursing profession. Just as physicians create a plan of care for their patients, nurses also create their own plan of care that includes physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of care. Don’t ever underestimate the amount of intelligence, science and skill needed to be a nurse. We make it look easy because we’re so good at what we do.
8. When someone is hospitalized, there is always an RN in charge of that person’s care, even if you don’t see him or her for much of the day. That nurse is always looking out for that patient’s best interests and is coordinating and managing care provided by the entire health-care team (sometimes multiple physicians, therapists, techs, social workers, case managers, dieticians, etc.).
9. Nurses are health-care experts in their own right. Much of their work involves health teaching to patients and family members. Examples: a) Teaching an adolescent (and his/her family) who is newly diagnosed with diabetes how to monitor blood sugar, inject themselves with insulin, prevent complications and so on; b) Helping and supporting a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer to navigate her way through the scary and convoluted maze of cancer treatment, symptom management, medical appointments; c) Working closely with a man who has recently had a heart attack to prepare him for the physical and emotional challenges of his medical condition while returning home and continuing his recovery and rehabilitation; d) Instructing first-time parents how to care for their newborn; e) Provide grief counseling and support to family members of loved ones who are dying or have passed away. These are just a few examples.
10. Nurses have expertise in wound care, minimizing the risk of infections, avoiding and treating skin ulcers, managing pain, managing chronic illness, maintaining/attaining health and well being, providing comfort care, counseling, coaching, and much more.
11. The Department of Labor has named Nursing as one of the top 10 careers for job growth and opportunities in the foreseeable future with nursing topping the list for the first time ever.
12. Many schools of nursing have a 2-3 year waiting list to get into their programs. Nursing is a hot career goal these days!
Donna Cardillo, RN travels the world helping nurses to be happy in their careers and to reach their full potential. She is fiercely passionate about nursing and about life in general. You may know Donna as “Dear Donna” at Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek magazines where she writes a regular column and doles out daily online career advice at nurse.com. She is also an “Expert” Blogger at DoctorOz.com – the first and only nurse blogging there! Donna is author of 3 books: Your First Year as a Nurse, The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses, and a Daybook for Beginning Nurses. She has received numerous awards and recognitions but is most proud of being named a Diva in Nursing by the Institute for Nursing in NJ for outstanding achievements and excellence in practice. Donna has been referred to as the Ann Landers and the Dr. Phil of the nursing profession. Regardless of who she’s compared to, there’s no denying that she has her own unique style, indomitable spirit, and uproarious sense of humor.