Nurses are a vital part of the medical community. There are over 2.5 million nurses in the United States, and nursing is the largest employer in the healthcare field. As the population ages, it is expected that we will need more nurses than ever to fill these available positions. There are two reasons for the increased demand for nurses. An aging population is one that will have a greater need for medical care, and many nurses are reaching retirement age.
At a time when teacher and nurse where the two traditional career paths for women, many of the nurses that are reaching retirement age now chose nursing as a career. As other fields of study opened up, fewer women chose to enter the nursing field. That is offset slightly by the fact that many men are entering the field once dominated by women. Men, lured by the promise of flexible schedules and high demand, are a growing segment of the nursing community.
The nursing community is vital to the structure of the entire medical community. Nurses are responsible for their patient’s well being, and must not only dispense medicine, but recognize early signs of complications, monitor the patient’s emotional condition, and help the patient’s family understand the diagnosis and treatment of a disease.
The Importance of Nurses in the Hospital Setting
Nurses receive specialized training in monitoring and assessing medical conditions. While a physician diagnoses a disease or ailment and prescribes a course of treatment, it is the nurse who is involved in the implementation of that therapy. Nurses work one on one with patients, monitoring their vital signs and observing any changes to their condition. Often a nurse’s instinct, honed by hours on the job, is the first clue that a patient may not be responding well to treatment or that there may be another problem.
A nurse will typically be responsible for many patients on each shift. She is responsible for making sure they receive their medications and any other prescribed treatments, as well as helping with basic needs and comforts. The nurse is often a liaison between the patient and their family and the physician. The nurse can often explain in layman’s terms what the doctor has diagnosed and, using knowledge from years on the job, comfort the patient and family members.
The Importance of Nursing in the Community
Nurses are an important part of the community. Particularly in under-served areas, a patient may receive a good deal of their primary care from a nurse. Immunization clinics and health screenings are just two of the ways that nurses serve the community. Without community nurses, many children would be unable to attend school, or be unable to see the chalk board, or older patients would be unaware of high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Community nursing is growing in importance as health care becomes unaffordable for many families. Community nurses often implement low cost programs that allow members of the community to receive help in losing weight, monitoring their blood pressure, or obtaining dental or eye exams for their children.
Nursing in the Home Care Setting
Nurses that work in home health care provide a valuable service to their clients. Often an elderly person is unable to live on their own, but does not want to give up their independence and enter a nursing home. Sometime, a child with a medical condition can stay home, but needs therapy daily. In situations such as these, a home health nurse is invaluable. The nurse makes up a schedule that is set up by the treating physician, and visits homes, administering therapy, checking on the client’s well being, and assessing the patient for any additional needs they may have.
A Higher Level of Care
One of the problems with the rising cost of health care is the lack of access to physicians. Many nurses are furthering their education in ways that help the entire medical community. A registered nurse that has completed his or her bachelor degree may continue on to one of many branches of graduate school. After specialization, she will graduate as a nurse practitioner, and specialize in midwife and delivery, community health, family care, or anesthetics. Although supervision levels vary by state, the nurse practitioner typically works under the supervision of a physician.
While the nurse practitioner must work under a physician, she has a great deal of autonomy. It is not a situation where the nurse is directly supervised. The physician is available for consultation, and may review charts and diagnosis on occasion, but the nurse practitioner can order tests, refer patients to specialists and has prescribing authority. Nurse practitioners have enhanced the level of care offered in many poor and rural communities. They also allow a hospital to reduce its costs by providing services that in the past were only offered by a physician.