Many years ago, I was given the greatest gift by a patient who had no idea he would change my life and define my professional outlook as a nurse. While not every nurse will be fortunate enough to have such an explicit experience of the effect of the care they provide so early in their career, I believe that each patient you come in contact with is changing your life as much as you are changing theirs.
Quantity of Care vs. Quality of Care
Nursing has evolved into a highly technical profession grounded in scientific evidence, a profession that works to improve patient outcomes and shorten hospital stays. Research and technology support this work in innumerable ways.
But while nurses must be technical experts, drug experts, and efficiency experts, they must also do their best to alleviate the suffering of those in their charge. These many concurrent demands can result in high burnout rates among nurses as well as fragmented care for patients.
The quantity of care today’s nurse provides must go hand in hand with the quality of care. My own definition of quality care is focusing on patients as more than just a set of signs, symptoms, numbers, and processes in need of monitoring and adjustment. Recognizing patients as individuals and making our time at the bedside meaningful is often as important as accomplishing our clinical goals.
Caring with Kindness
When I entered nursing, due to many personal constraints I was required to advance within the profession step by step, from medical assistant to licensed vocational nurse to registered nurse, until ultimately obtaining my master’s degree in nursing.
During the time I was in my registered nursing program, the hospital where I worked as an LVN experienced a strike by the registered nurses. The LVNs like me were asked to take varied duties. Since I was also in an RN program and close to graduating, I was placed under the direct supervision of an RN and physician to provide care in the ICU. The patient to whom I was assigned was a young man who had broken virtually every bone in his body in a motorcycle accident, had casts, open wounds, and was comatose.
While he definitely needed an ICU level of care, he was considered a “safer” choice for an LVN becoming an RN. Each day, his open wounds needed care and, despite his casts, he needed regular repositioning. I had never before cared for a patient with so many complex needs on a regular basis. […]