Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who Advocates For Nurses????

By Chiqui Raveloski

To all my fellow nurses out there, hope everything is well. It has been a very hectic week at work. I am sure you noticed the hospital patient census had been reaching its all time high nowadays. This goes the same for doctor's offices, clinics, and other healthcare settings. As s matter of fact, normal operations were in full steam during this past holiday season. It has not been the same as it used to be.

Another change we had seen is the influx of individuals, young and old, with increasing number, severity, and duration of chronic illnesses. Due to the recent recession, layoffs were rampant and more uninsured patients are entering the healthcare system very sick. They wait till the last minute to seek medical attention. These illnesses requires specialized plan of care. As a result, Emergency Rooms everywhere are crowded with patients requiring several levels of care. This increases patient volume in the ER resulting in long waiting period.

The plot continues to thicken when caring for patients are further dictated by managed care systems, government assistance, protocols, extensive amounts of documentations, and the list goes on. In the midst of it all, nurses being in the forefront are placed in a very critical position of safely managing and advocating for those in need. Yet, when it is all said and done, who advocates for nurses?

In the present culture of patient safety, nurses are constantly reminded of how quickly events can be turned against them. A perfect example is handling 6 -7 high acuity patients in a med surg / telemetry floor. Nurses continue to work under the umbrella of keeping patients safe through the 5 Rights, read back and verified, keeping up with vital signs, blood sugars, telemetry strips, input and output, etc. However, one slip and a rapid response could be in your way. And as nurses try even harder to keep patients free from harm, who watches out for nurses' safety? 

Nurses' and patients' safety are further compromised due to nursing shortage. For many years and counting,  "Nursing shortage" remains at the top of healthcare challenges. Perhaps we think it has been resolved. Yet, we see, hear and experience the dilemma over and over with no relief in sight. With the evolving healthcare reforms, many will be granted access to healthcare. The need for more nurses and healthcare professionals will remain an issue. Nurses are exhausted, working 12 hour shifts, with quick lunch breaks, if you are lucky. Can someone relieve us for a whole 30 minute lunch break? OK a bathroom break with no phone call, please!

Nurses should advocate for their fellow nurses. We need to stay together, remain together and rest together. Watching out for each other is the right thing to do. It invites the spirit of sisterhood/brotherhood, like family. When the spirit of family is present, a bond becomes strong, making the profession stronger than it has ever been. Watching out for each other can involve, looking out for a fellow nurse's patients during his/her lunch break, lending a hand during a complicated wound care, or helping with a new admission by simply placing a telemetry monitoring box on a patient.

The simplest of gestures can go a long way. It makes for a cohesive work area. This encourages nurses to make a "stick" to the floor while "sticking together" becomes a trending theme. Productivity increases, early burn out declines, and it becomes a safer environment for everyone. You know as well as everyone else, safety issues and medical errors are monitored very closely. This affects the overall reimbursement structure for healthcare settings. 

The hope is for nurses to start advocating not only for their patients but also for the profession itself. Some may choose to embark in managerial roles, standing up for the rest in front of the board room or congress. Nurses who choose to do this should have a very strong conviction to stand up and take a stance on what they believe in. But somehow, I feel like most nurses think this is a tall order. Why is that?

Nursing is an integration of knowledge, values, and concepts. The sole purpose is to form a meaningful relationship between mind, body, and spirit, forming self actualization. I truly believe that we  nurses  realize the importance of what we do. We take patients' safety first and ours last. Society will realize that  our actions are guided by our own knowledge, expertise, and professionalism. Actions speaks louder than words. 

The presence of "bayanihan" = "a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective" is important. Nurses have to be united in all things we believe is right.  And if we have to be in the background for now, that is OK. With patience, hard work and conviction, we will one day have a voice worthy of being heard. 

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