May 6-12, 2015 is National Nurses Week, hosted by the American Nurses Association. 

Nursing is the most trusted profession in America.

According to the annual Gallup poll, nurses have been at the top of the list for twelve of the last thirteen years. That is one good reason to honor nurses with recognition during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, 2015. When I was asked to write a blog for Nurses Week, I didn’t know where to start. Those who know me, know that I always have a lot to say about nursing so it was difficult to focus on a specific topic. I have been a registered nurse for more than 30 years, and I began to think about what has changed in nursing during that time. I realized that many things have changed.

Trends in Nursing

  • The white uniform has been replaced by scrubs in all manner of colors and patterns.
  • The number of pharmaceuticals on the market has grown exponentially – and nurses must know how to safely administer them.
  • Diagnostic testing is more prevalent and complex – and nurses must be knowledgeable about how to prepare patients for testing.
  • Patient length of stay in the hospital setting has shortened considerably. Thirty years ago, it was common for the patient undergoing cataract surgery to be hospitalized for seven days. Today, the patient is sent home the same day. Short hospital stays mean that nurses must provide care and education to patients and families efficiently and effectively within a constrained time frame.
  • Technology has reached a level of sophistication unheard of 30 years ago: “Smart pumps” to deliver intravenous fluids and medications, patient controlled analgesia, medication dispensing systems, medication scanners, and the electronic health record are just a few examples of technology that comprise the world of nursing today.
  • The practice setting has expanded beyond the hospital setting, and health care is delivered in a myriad of settings in an inter-professional environment.

What does this mean for the nurses of today and into the future? The skill set and roles for nurses have expanded and evolved over the last 30 years and will undoubtedly change over the next 30 years. Communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills will always be inherent in the practice of nursing. Caring and compassion will always be central to our practice. The changing and shifting landscape of healthcare in an inter-professional environment requires that nurses know how to collaborate effectively, resolve conflict with skill, and actively participate in the design of systems that efficiently deliver care. Nurses must be technologically-savvy, grounded in evidence-based practice, knowledgeable about how healthcare is organized and financed, and adaptable to changing roles across the continuum of care.

Nurses are central to the delivery of health care in hospitals, homes, clinics, schools, and in every setting where people receive health care. While the ranking of nursing as the most trusted profession in America is worthy of a week of honor and recognition, there are many other reasons why nurses deserve honor and recognition each and every day of the year.

Jeanine Carr, PhD, RN is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences where she teaches in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

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