Nursing Career Summary: What Is a Nurse?

When it comes to the medical profession, people usually envision doctors with stethoscopes and surgeons with surgery knives. Even though these two are typical representations of the medical profession, in reality, nurses are the ones that most medical facilities can’t do without. Nurses support the general practitioners, physicians, dentists and surgeons, and provide hands-on care for the sickly and the injured. Their importance spans a great deal of other aspects that underlie most forms of medical treatment. Nurses are also there throughout major milestones and challenges of our life — childbirth, accidents, and surgery. They are always there to put the doctor’s words into action and to provide the best possible treatment and care for us.

Contrary to popular belief, history seems to paint an ironic picture that depicts men as the originator of the nursing practice. Back in 250 B.C. in India, men were considered ‘pure’ and thus were the only ones who were allowed to nurse others. In 300 A.D. the Parabolani Brotherhood was a group of men that set up a hospital specifically to nurse those who were suffering and dying of a deadly plague.

There are many other instances in history which shows the same trend of men nursing the sick or those who came to seek medical attention from them. It wasn’t until late 16th century when St. Camillus, a priest, began going out in search of the sick and the poor. He contradicted the idea that nurses should sit and wait for the sick to come to them, and thus established the base of what was to become the ambulance service of today. This was the same form of thinking, albeit independently, adopted by Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp who started modern nursing, and who unknowingly became the figure that so strongly connects women to the nursing profession. Today however, those who intend to be nurses have to discard the common misconception that nurses have to be clad in white, soft-spoken, and female.

Nurses have one of the most challenging and diversified working conditions of any occupation. If they do not work in doctors’ offices, their working hours can be unpredictable. Some work in shifts, others work on 24-hour calls, and a lot of their personal time, even their weekends and holidays, is sacrificed.

Apart from the demanding working hours, they are also exposed to hazards on a daily basis. During outbreaks or epidemics, nurses are among those most vulnerable to infections due to their constant exposure to infected patients. Some patients may also suffer from debilitating diseases and their treatment may result in emotionally-wrenching situations, especially when it involves family members and children. Thus, nurses are those who possess the grit and the emotional stability to deal with death and suffering every day. Even if it does not get to them, they are often subjected to bodily injury from electrical equipment, radiation, surgical equipment and needles as well as many other harmful chemicals.

What’s more, nurses who are stationed in military bases have the added danger of being a casualty of war and may find themselves losing close friends during wartime. Yet, it is required that they dedicate themselves fully to the task at hand, emotionally detaching themselves from anything that may affect their focus at work. In short, the life of a nurse may only sometimes be rewarding, while always hectic.

Being a nurse is clearly not as easy-going and as simple we sometimes think. Nevertheless, the benefits are rewarding and the career advancement prospect of this profession is able to rival any other occupation in the world. Currently, the United States is suffering from a shortage of nurses partially due to the demanding working environment and the lack of nursing schools to accommodate the demand.

Nurses salaries, however, are never something to grumble about. As of 2005, the average staff nurse earned a yearly income of $57,600, forming the basic income for all nursing-related profession. Hospital administrators and nursing directors are capable of earning six figures per year. The difference in salaries are due to the differences in work experience, time spent with patients, the types of facilities, levels of education, and certifications.

Career advancements for nurses can be attained through specialization in different medical fields. The longer a nurse has been in a specific field, the more valuable his/her experience and expertise. The multiple medical specialties a nurse can focus on is dependent on factors such as population, the types of illness, the places they work at, and the type of treatment they are trained to provide. Therefore, it is common to see nurses specializing in multiple fields that are related to one another.

For instance, nurses who work in the pediatric department (children and adolescents) may need to equip themselves with knowledge of certain diseases that children are vulnerable to as well as the types of treatment applicable. Similarly, those who are nurse midwives should have the know-how of caring for the mother before, during, and after labor. As for the type of treatment and work environment, nurses must adopt a flexible attitude in areas such as operating new medical machines, or learning to cope with working environments outside the comfort of hospitals and clinics.

Apart from regularly caring for the sickly and the injured, some nurses may even assume other roles, specifically non-medical jobs that emphasize the promotion of public health. Their involvement is crucial to the success of activities like blood drives and exercise programs, as well as instilling health awareness through public seminars and school visits.

Additionally, registered nurses who are trained in the areas of counseling would be entrusted with the responsibility of counseling family members of critically ill patients, or to assist in therapies for affected patients. They are also the ones who provide guidance to patients who are in need of self-administered medication (such as diabetic patients). As nurses advance through their careers, it is also possible for them to apply their expertise to areas of law enforcement and disease control. Advance practice nurses can opt to participate in police investigations and contribute their nursing knowledge to forensic investigations or disease control responses for infectious outbreaks.

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