Nursing is a career with a tremendous level of responsibility. Not only do nurses have a significant effect on the care patients receive, they frequently impact patients’ caregivers and family members, too. In many instances, the work that nurses do extends to their employers, communities and the world at large.
How Can Nurses Impact Patients and Their Family Members?
Perhaps the most influential relationships that nurses have are with their patients. The nurse-patient relationship may be multifaceted, with nurses fulfilling a range of duties including physical care, emotional support and education.
To successfully manage each of these roles and truly help the patient, nurses must develop a connection with each patient. Melody Butler, a licensed nurse and founding executive director of Nurses Who Vaccinate, reiterates the importance of these relationships.
“[Nurses have] an ability to be a great resource and advocate for the patient [since they] are present with patients from the very beginning and long after they are home recovering. Nurses can help guide a patient [through] difficult treatment options, understand discharge instructions, or cope with new lifestyle changes,” Butler said. “A nurse’s clinical training and education can prevent potential mistakes, improve patient satisfaction and make a difference in a patientâ€™s daily recovery and care.”
Compounding on the importance of strong nurse-patient relationships, a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing found that three themes emerged when nurses provided patient counseling and support. The power and influential effect of this engagement was based on the following:
- Shared Needs — Nurses are able to find common ground and a way to connect with each patient.
- Shared Action — Nurses and patients can work together to develop a personalized care and recovery plan.
- Reassurance — Patients may look to nurses for reassurance regarding their current condition and future health. Nurses can help patients envision what to expect as well as identify their true potential.
Similarly, the power of nursing extends to patients’ family members and caregivers.
“When families and support systems are educated about plan of care, adverse effects, and benefits of medications and treatment, a patient’s compliancy and understanding of treatment increases,” said Butler. “Nurses are key to providing that education.”
How Can Nurses Impact Their Employers?
Between their professional experiences and educational background, nurses can play an extremely influential role with their employers. Whether they are employed by a hospital, physician office, or outpatient clinic, nurses can be instrumental in improving patient satisfaction scores, which in turn, benefits the employer financially while simultaneously strengthening their reputation in the community.
In addition, nurses can help create more ideal work environments.
“As educated professionals, nurses can and should be working toward creating healthy work environments. There are great examples throughout the county of nurses working with their employers to improve working environments and patient care,” said Butler. “Healthy work environments are necessary in order to cultivate positive staff and improve patient outcomes. When nurses become leaders, skilled communicators, and take responsibility for healthy work environments, they have the most positive impact on their employers.”
How Can Nurses Impact Their Communities?
Nurse have the potential to deeply impact their communities as well. By providing effective patient-centered care, they indirectly improve the health of the community. Nurses who choose a career in public or community health improve the communities in which they work in countless ways. From coordinating cholesterol screening clinics to volunteering in the aftermath of a disaster, nurses can educate and connect with members of the community — many of whom they may never have encountered otherwise.
Nurses Advocating for New Legislation
Another way nurses can influence communities is by advocating for legislative change.
“Nurses deliver 90 percent of healthcare services worldwide. There is such a need for nurses to take part and join the decision-making tables in organizations both nationally and globally,” said Butler. “There are groups who have recognized the need to strengthen nursing efforts and raise nursing visibility across the board.”
National Nurses United (NNU) is one example of an organization doing just that. With nearly 185,000 members, NNU is a professional association of licensed nurses who advocate for change that can improve patient care and the working conditions of nurses. For example, NNU currently has two bills under review — one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate — that would establish minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Additional NNU legislative campaigns include a single-payer healthcare system, lower prescription drug pricing and social security benefits protection. By joining with the NNU or similar organizations, nurses can bring attention to problems within the healthcare system and initiate key policy changes across the nation.
Within her own organization, Butler has seen the headway nurses can make when they come together.
“From [improving] patient access to immunizations, debunking vaccine myths among colleagues, and hosting community events in collaboration with employers, Nurses Who Vaccinate members continue to have a positive influence in their communities,” she explained.
A Powerful Career
Nursing is a rewarding career, especially for those who are interested in touching the lives of others. With the ability to affect not only patients and their families, but also their employers and communities, nurses should remain aware of the power of the nursing platform. While it is a substantial responsibility to carry, it can be an incredibly gratifying venture as well.
Learn about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.
Butler, M. (2016, December 17). Email interview.
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