There are around 3 million nurses currently making up the backbone of the healthcare industry in the U.S. Nurses have been consistently ranked as one of the most trusted professions in the US, and it’s clear to see why. Nurses play a role in not only providing patients with the care they need but also on the administrative side of things.
Keep reading below where we will talk about the role of nurses, how nursing has changed over the years, what it’s like to be a nurse now, and why nurses are so important in the health care system.
How Nursing Has Evolved Over the Years
Nurses have been around for over 2000 years, albeit providing care in a very different capacity and with different abilities than they do today. Nurses traditionally worked in convents or hospitals run by the church. They often looked after their patients in squalid surroundings and had very little medical knowledge.
In the 1800s, this all began to change. People like Florence Nightingale worked hard to make people aware of the benefits of proper health care. Florence and others began to lobby for improved working conditions and for more training for staff. During the Crimean War, Nightingale spotted that the majority of people who died didn’t die because of battle wounds they’d sustained, instead, they died from contracting an infection. These infections quickly spread between patients thanks to the squalid conditions they were being treated in. Nightingale recognized that to improve health care, we needed to advance the nursing profession.
However, although her work was revolutionary, it still took another 100 years before the nursing profession changed and started resembling the profession we know today.
At the start of the 20th century, most nurses:
- Received on the job training
- Were similar to apprentices
- Were paid a low wage
A few years later, more changes were made to the nursing profession:
- On the job training/apprenticeships were no longer recommended. Instead, nurses were expected to gain a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree or an ADN (Associate’s Degree in Nursing).
- The nursing profession became more organized
- Higher-level nurses (like nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists) were required to complete a master’s degree or a doctorate degree.
Nurses in Modern Healthcare
Nurses have been well respected by the general public for a very long time. However, professional respect within the healthcare sector has taken longer to gain. Nurses have had to organize, lobby, and more importantly advance the profession academically to get the recognition they deserve.
70 years ago, nurses were seen as order-takers for doctors. Nurses were only expected to:
- Change beds
- Bathe patients
- Deliver food
- Provide patients with medications.
Nurses nowadays have greater autonomy and a lot more responsibilities. This has led to better collaborative relationships with other healthcare professionals. It’s a well-known fact that patients usually trust their nurse more than they do their doctor. This means that nurses are the crucial link between patients and doctors.
As you can see, things have changed a great deal over the past two decades. Nurses are now viewed as valuable members of the health care system. They can no longer train on the job; instead, they are expected to complete a recognized nursing qualification. Nursing qualifications can even be completed online through respected institutions like Carson-Newman University. The courses offered by this university are student-centered and perfect for anyone thinking of becoming a nurse or wanting to enhance their current skills and qualifications.
Why Are Nurses So Important in Healthcare Today?
There are lots of reasons why nurses are so important in healthcare. Here are some of the main reasons:
- Nurses spend a lot of time with their patients – when you think about your last doctors visit, the chances are you spent time with a nurse before you actually went in to see the doctor. Your nurse will have asked you lots of questions about your health and any problems you’re experiencing. Then, after you’ve seen the doctor, your nurse will likely have seen you again and discussed any concerns with you. In hospital settings, nurses spend even more time with their patients. We often hear people describing nurses as “working on the front line”. They are often the first people to notice changes in a patient’s condition or call for attention if the situation is critical.
- Nurses are patient advocates – the extra time nurses spend with patients gives them a clearer insight into their patient’s behavior, needs, wants, concerns, and health habits, which makes them an important advocate in their care. Patient advocacy also means they help to coordinate care with other providers or check to see if a patient has provided informed consent before having a procedure.
- Education – one of the biggest issues that plague the U.S. healthcare industry is low health literacy. This simply means the ability to understand health information and make appropriate decisions. Doctors usually have good scientific knowledge about medicine, but they may struggle talking to people in terms they can understand. Nurses on the other hand, are usually brilliant at this.
- Nurses monitor their patient’s health – we can’t talk about the role of nurses without including the monitoring of patients and keeping records up to date. While doctors and other professionals will check on patients now and then, nurses are the ones who spend time monitoring their condition. Nurses keep a record of everything from the possibility of them having a fall to their vital signs. They then write up these assessments and update records accordingly. Nurses report this information to other professionals when needed.
- Greater autonomy – when problems occur (particularly in healthcare settings) it’s usually a nurse who spots it first. Nurses will act quickly to notify a doctor of changes, but sometimes doctors can’t attend and nurses are required to stabilize the patient without help. This means that nurses need to be trusted by physicians and understand what they can do and can’t do.
How to Become a Nurse
Undergraduate and graduate nursing programs can be completed from the comfort of your own home. There is a range of degree and certificate programs for you to choose from including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Post Master’s Certificate-Family Nurse Practitioner. Why not find out more information today?
Working in the healthcare industry and particularly as a nurse is an extremely rewarding career. Once you’ve completed the qualifications and training, you’ll be able to enjoy this amazing and fulfilling career.