Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nurse's Story: Paula - Could I Really Help People?

Paula -

At the age of 16 I had stomach surgery. My ICU nurse, Terri, was wonderful. She inspired me to be a nurse. I admired what she did, but I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Could I really help people? Would the blood and body fluids bother me? The only way to find out was to try it. I worked as a nursing assistant the following summer and I loved it!

That summer, Noreen, my mentor, was terrific! She was the mother of one of my friends. When she was 40, she decided she wanted to be a nurse. She got her BSN and then started nursing in our small town. Her demeanor impressed me the most; how she was with me and the patients. She was good at listening, and her manner was soft and encouraging. She nurtured, supported and guided me. When I think of a professional, I still see her in my mind. She made me feel special because she allowed me to perform tests and took the time to help me learn and understand.

I worked in several areas of nursing, and met another influential person who saw my leadership qualities and convinced me to go into nursing administration.“I want the public to continue to put their trust in nurses to protect their loved ones, their bodies and their very being.” I took several administrative positions around the country and eventually ended up in my current job, in which I oversee licensing and discipline of nurses in our state and making sure nursing schools meet standards. The public needs to trust that when students graduate from a nursing school they have achieved a certain level of competence. It helps me to stay focused on my real desire, to effectively help people in their most vulnerable situations. What we do at the state ensures that patients can trust the nurse to help them when they can’t help themselves.

This job is rewarding because I have seen people completely change their way of practicing. We have a rehabilitative focus in our profession. If someone makes a mistake, we do what we can to help the nurse become a good, safe professional. I get to use problem solving skills to have an impact on nursing and people’s healthcare in general. Sometimes nurses don’t even recognize they have problems in their practice. Because patients put so much trust into nurses, I take my job very seriously. I want to keep the profession admirable. I want the public to continue to put their trust in nurses to protect their loved ones, their bodies and their very being.

As a regulatory body we struggle with the question of who is responsible to provide continuing competency. It’s important for nurses to continually learn new skills because of the constant changes in nursing. We all agree the growth needs to happen, but is it a personal responsibility or an employer responsibility? Should it happen every three years or every five years? Right now nurses renew their license every year, but what that really reflects is that someone paid the fee and stayed out of trouble last year.

Issues like continuing competency and others need to be addressed by the profession, and we need nurses to come forward and help find reasonable solutions. Unfortunately, nurses give so much in their jobs many don’t feel they have energy to devote to forming regulations or standing up for their beliefs. Many times nurses won’t step up, instead they wait to be invited. Rather than saying, “We need to be here,” and recognizing the power they have as nurses, they melt into the background. I try to empower nurses and encourage them to take up their own issues, rather than have the nursing commission go in and fight their battles. I would like to go out and say to every nurse, you need to be there. However, I might succeed in getting them there by rephrasing my plea to say, “I need you to be there. I want you” because that will better speak to the giving, nurturing, nature of the nurse.

Over the past month I’ve been reviewing my professional portfolio. It’s an exercise where I asked myself, “What are my goals now and where am I going? What do I want to be and do?” I’m reformulating my goals, and as much as I love my job in licensing and regulation, I’m missing patient contact. So I’m looking to bolster my skills and talents, both managerially and administratively, but most importantly, I want to return to cardiac nursing. I’ll need to learn what’s happened in the last 10-15 years since I’ve left that area, but I’m excited to update and expand my knowledge.

I will be a nurse all my life. I was going through licensing records recently and looking at the ages of current licensed nurses. There were people 80 years old who still hold their licenses. Once you “get” nursing you never want to let it go, because it’s too hard to get. I heard one story about a man who paid his wife’s license even after she died. He said she worked too hard and it meant so much to her, that he believed she would want him to keep her license current. My message to nurses, current and future is, “Patients need you. People need you. Come in. Come back. Nursing is the most rewarding career you can have.”

Power Strategies: Encouragement, Accountability, Trust
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