8 Reasons Why a Nurse is Not 'Just a Nurse'

not just a nurse

Just a nurse?

There’s no such thing. A nurse is so much more than “just a nurse.”

Nurses play so many different roles that it’s impossible to encompass it all in just one job title. The profession is central to the heart of healthcare, with 3 million nurses caring for patients in the US. Without them and everything they do, healthcare simply could not function.

To refer to them as “just nurses” is not just an insult – it’s an outrage! It’s overlooking all they do.

No, they’re not just nurses – they’re the frontline of care. Don’t believe us? Familiarize yourself with just a few of the many hats nurses wear during every shift.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m an educator

For nurses, a crucial part of the job is educating patients and their families on their diagnosis. A nurse teaches patients how to manage their symptoms and explains treatment options.

“A nurse is an educator every day. They teach patients about the signs and symptoms of disease process, medications and how to advocate for themselves,” explains Elizabeth Halbert, RN, BSN, BA and Clinical Supervisor with MJHS Home Care.

She adds that a nurse may have to teach something concrete, such as how to apply a dressing to a wound. Or it may be more abstract, such as the signs and symptoms of worsening diabetes. More and more nurses are also tasked with educating patients on how to navigate the health care system, especially how to access care.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m a bridge-builder

As the frontline of care, nurses hold a great responsibility to provide the best possible care to their patients while embodying their healthcare organization’s values and mission.

“Nurses have the difficult responsibility of holding an organization’s vision and financial imperative while advocating for a patient’s best interest,” says Nicole Nash-Arnold, R.N. and nurse manager. She explains that business and healthcare don’t always go hand-in-hand, so it can be challenging for nurses to build that bridge between the two.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m a counselor

Nurses tending to the bedside get the privilege of building relationships with patients that physicians and other healthcare workers rarely get to experience. To many patients and their families, a nurse is their lifeline to the entire workings of the healthcare facility. By answering questions and listening to concerns, a nurse acts as an ambassador for a patient.

“I think a nurse is most like a counselor in terms of the need to listen,” Halbert says. She believes listening and asking the right questions can help the patient or family member decide on the best path to healing.

“A familiarity between the nurse, patient and family can be an added source of comfort and peace for the patient and even for the family, who might feel stressed, guilty or anxious about the health of their loved one,” Halbert adds.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m a chemical catalyst

Nurses aren’t always just the middle man between the doctor and the patient. They have vast medical knowledge, with extremely technical specialties that are critical to the healthcare system. A nurse anesthetist, for example, must select powerful drugs with immediate effects on organs, cells and electrons, according to Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN and author.

“Rather than just using theory like a pharmacist or writing orders for others to carry out as a physician would, I'm intimately involved with every breath and heartbeat my patients make — or that I make for them,” he explains.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m an advocate

“Nurses are definitely patient advocates and are often the strongest one for the patient because their relationship and time with the patient is often different than it is with a doctor,” Halbert says.

All of the time nurses spend with their patients allows them to get a good grasp on their conditions. It’s not uncommon for them to step in on their patient's behalf when recommending care plans to physicians or surgeons. Advocacy is so essential to nursing that some nurses make a career of it as a nurse advocate.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m a confidant

Not only do nurses have a lot on their plates, but they also must carry the burden of upholding the privacy of their patients. Nurses must abide to strict privacy laws, maintaining the confidentiality and dignity of the patient.

“Due to HIPAA rules I keep ALL of your healthcare information private and only share what needs to be shared,” says Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN and author. She admits this is one of the more difficult aspects of her job, especially as a mental health nurse. There are times when you have to break that trust if you believe a patient may harm themselves or someone else.

“This is always a difficult decision for me because if you are wrong, you lose that band of trust. But if you are right, you may have saved a life or two,” Katz says.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m an interpreter

Decipher a patient’s symptoms and transcribe them in the medical records? Check. Translate technical doctor-speak into understandable layman’s terms for the patient? Check. Plus even more translating in the healthcare setting for some nurses.

Halbert echoes the importance of interpreting medical jargon, intricate instructions and complex symptoms into everyday language. On top of that, nurses must be able to decipher complicated health plans and access.

I’m not just a nurse, I’m a friend

Patients enter the hospital to be cared for by a nurse. But it’s not just the physical care they receive that matters – the emotional support they receive from a nurse can make a world of difference.

“Sometimes patients don't just need health care, they need emotional care and support,” says Rasmussen College nursing student Hannah Jury-Fleming. She confesses it can be easy to get caught up in your routine as a nurse, but going the extra mile for your patients and truly getting to know them can have a huge impact.

“Sometimes your friendship and counsel might be all they have, and it might be exactly what they need,” she adds.

More than just a nurse

It’s clear that a nurse is not just a nurse. They’re an advocate for your wellbeing. They’re a counselor when you need someone to listen. They’re educators when you need to learn. They’re a friend when you just need someone in your corner.

There’s no denying it – nurses truly are the heart of healthcare.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have not have experienced the many secret powers of a nurse, this may come as a surprise to you. But trust us; you’ll appreciate it when you need it!

Need more proof that nurses are superheroes walking amongst us? Check out our article, 18 Reasons Everyone Should Marry a Nurse, to see just how special they really are!

Follow our Rasmussen College School of Nursing blog and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to keep up on everything nursing related!

Kristina Ericksen

Kristina is a Digital Writer at Collegis Education where she creates informative content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about the power of education and enjoys connecting students to bright futures.


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