RNs are educated, ethical and engaged, and patients are all the better for it.

National Nurses Week is set aside in the U.S. each year to focus on the nursing profession and honor its members for their many contributions to our nation’s healthcare. During the week, nurses are celebrated at their workplaces, featured in stories about their outstanding work, honored at special programs and events and presented with awards for excellence.

I’ve been part of many National Nurses Week celebrations and each year I’ve become prouder to be a nurse and felt more privileged to call nurses “my colleagues.”

Nurses are ethical

In almost every poll taken in the last two decades, Gallup has ranked nursing the most honest, ethical profession. Why? Maybe it’s because nurses are the ones who always are there in the care setting, around the clock, on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Maybe it’s the traits they have that patients value — kindness, empathy, attentiveness and compassion.

Or maybe it’s because it’s usually the nurse who spends time with patients telling them about their care and answering their questions.

Nurses listen and respond to patients’ needs not simply because they have good communication and people skills, but because they know patients must understand what’s going on and what’s coming next. When patients speak with nurses they know they will be confidential and professional in handling the information they share.

Nurses take care of the small details and go the extra mile, and as a group, have more contact time with patients than other healthcare professions.

Because they care, many nurses worry about not being able to spend enough time with patients. They know patients need not just physical but emotional care. They know when patients are scared, sad, angry or afraid and when they need an ear that really listens and a hand they can hold. And they work to give them this. That’s why they’re not only thought of as honest and ethical, they’re trusted, respected and loved.

Nurses are educated    

Our nation continues to grow and change, and with it our national healthcare system. To meet the needs of its larger population and changing demographics, the nursing profession has grown its numbers and increased its knowledge, training and skills.

Education in nursing has come a long way since the first National Nurses Week and in the recent past has moved ahead even more rapidly. We all know the skillsets needed to render bedside care provided by diploma and associate degree programs still are valued and needed, but with the growing complexity of care, there’s been a call for nurses to pursue advanced education.

Our profession has responded to the call and led the charge in pursuing advanced degrees and taking on new roles.

Proponents of nursing research, professional organizational leaders and employers of nurses have supported the call, and the number of nurses prepared at the bachelor’s degree level is higher than ever and predicted to increase.

Many nurses have moved on to advanced degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels, the number of advanced practice nurses is on the rise, with many assuming new positions in new settings.

Advanced education has made nursing more mobile and flexible and prepared nurses to move into new specialties. Knowledge in advanced technology, monitoring devices, specialized diagnostic equipment, digital record keeping, phone apps and more has changed their work and their roles.

Nurses are engaged

Nurses go to work each day planning to be with their patients in every sense of the word.

Patients know when their caregivers are really present, and nurses know what’s called for in being engaged in patient care. They know they can’t just go through the motions or allow their minds to be on something else. Their goal is to be present for their patients fully and completely. And they take that goal seriously.

Nurses also are engaged with each other. They care about nursing advancement and professional issues and know it’s important they work together on common objectives in their professional organizations.

Nurses also are passionate and engaged outside of work and willing to go beyond their normal nursing roles to help others locally, nationally and internationally. Engagement is not just being in the game, but up at bat, and this is what we see in the volunteer work nurses do.

To me, the magnificent volunteerism in nursing is proof positive that nurses are all the Gallup poll results represent: fully prepared with special and valued traits; fully prepared for their work through advanced education; and fully engaged with patients and others in need and their nursing colleagues.

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