Nursing is often an under-appreciated profession. While nurses spend more time on average caring for their patients than doctors, they often take home significantly less pay. About 89 percent of nurses feel ineffective in their work due to indifferent or argumentative physicians and staff, and most nurses rarely have enough free time to eat healthy meals or sleep soundly more than three nights a week.
Despite all this, nursing remains one of the most attractive careers for people looking to contribute meaningfully to society. Nurses are amazing workers who provide infinite amounts of care to their patients and society in general. To prove the point, here are nine common activities you didn’t know nurses do.
1. Collect Patient Histories
Whenever you visit a doctor’s office or hospital, before you are admitted and taken to an exam room, you usually fill out a few forms inquiring about your recent health. Though the doctors may glance at this information for a quick background, most of your history goes straight into the minds of the careful and caring nurses.
2. Perform Physical Exams
In the past, the physical exam was strictly the realm of doctors. Because it requires the careful measurement of dozens of vital signs — including blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and respiration rate — the physical exam was one of only a handful of methods doctors could use to diagnose disorders. Today, with technology like blood work and scanning, the physical exam is no longer held in high esteem, and it has been relegated to the duty of nurses.
3. Administer Medications
Nurses are in charge of providing patients with their medication, including intravenous, oral, and others, as well as explaining exactly what the medication is for and how to take it properly. This latter job is especially important for when patients are sent home and no longer have the watchful eyes of nurses to guide and correct them.
4. Supervise Other Health Care Personnel
Like other places of employment, health care facilities have rigid hierarchies of power, where senior physicians are at the top. However, most nurses aren’t at the bottom of the totem pole — nurses with advanced degrees and specializations oversee regular registered nurses with bachelors’ degrees, while in turn registered nurses regulate licensed practical nurses (those with associates’ degrees) and nurses’ aides.
5. Care for Wounds
Lacerations, incisions, cuts, scrapes — all wounds that penetrate the skin, are managed directly by nurses. Nurses must clean, sterilize, bandage, and monitor the wounds to make sure they are healing properly, and when it comes time for patients to leave the health care facility, nurses must effectively explain any necessary at-home treatment. If wound care is not handled properly, even superficial wounds can cause destructive effects.
6. Conduct Research
Believe it or not, basically every hospital is performing research on its patients to learn what methods best encourage healing. Because nurses have significantly more contact with patients, often nurses are tasked with monitoring outcomes of various experiments. With proper approval, nurses can even conduct research of their own to determine best practices in patient care.
7. Educate the Public
Nurses, especially highly educated nurses devoted to doing broader good, often leave the hygienic rooms of health care facilities and venture into the world to educate regular people about healthy habits. Through community outreach, nurses are able to drastically improve the health of the world population. Hundreds of health disasters, from epidemics to nutritional deficits, have been thwarted thanks to the diligent work of public health officials, like nurses.
8. Administer Anesthetics
Certified registered nurse anesthetics (CRNA) is an advanced specialization that trains nurses to provide anesthetics, or pain killers, to patients undergoing potentially painful procedures. This is one of the oldest and one of the most highly valued nursing specializations; every year, more than 65 percent of anesthetics administered to patients are done so by nurses.
9. Assist Primarily in Birth
As more and more mothers opt for “natural” birthing techniques — those that eschew potentially harmful drugs and procedures in favor of a more instinctive birth process — more and more nurses are finding work in homes and alternative birthing centers to give aid to women in labor. With the nurse-midwife certification, nurses can knowledgeably guide babies into the world.
The next time you meet a nurse in your life, thank him or her for everything he or she does.