By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Nursing is a healthcare profession that focuses on the care of individuals and their families to help them recover from illness and maintain optimal health and quality of life.
Nurses are distinct from other healthcare providers as they have a wide scope of practice and approach to medical care. They play an integral role in promoting health, preventing illness, and caring for all individuals, including those who are disabled or are physically or mentally ill.
Nurse pushing an injured patient on a wheelchair - Image Copyright: Minerva Studio / Shutterstock
They are responsible for the ongoing care of sick individuals and need to assess their health status and help them throughout the process to recovery. The role of a nurse may include to:
- Promote health and prevent illness
- Care for the disabled and physically / mentally ill people
- Engage in healthcare teaching
- Participate in the provision of healthcare alongside other team members
- Supervise training and education of nurses
- Assist in healthcare research
Nurses advocate for the best interests of the patients at all times and focus on holistic health, which encompasses the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient. They are also involved in the treatment decision-making process to represent the patient’s situation and make recommendations, if required.
There are various types of nurses, according to the level of education and role in the healthcare team. These include
- Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Nursing Instructor
Additionally, a registered nurse may practice in a particular field with a specialization. There are many different types of specializations, including addiction, cardiovascular, mental health, and oncology nursing. In order to become specialized in a certain field, additional study and a certification exam is usually required.
The majority of nurses work in a hospital environment and provide medical care to patients with illnesses in this environment. However, there are various other possible workplaces of a nurse, including residential care homes, in-home care services, governmental services, military, schools, and research facilities.
The physical demands of the workplace are significant, and nurses are prone to back injuries due to the need to lift and move objects or patients around the workplace. Additionally, nurses are at risk of infection or illness due to exposure to bacteria, viruses, and hazardous drugs or substances in the work environment. To minimize this risk, appropriate sanitization and safety guidelines should be followed.
Given that continuous care is required for patients in hospital, nurses usually work in shifts to provide round-the-clock care. Although the work schedule differs according to individual workplace, nurses are usually required to work night shifts and on holidays or weekends. This can also disrupt sleeping patterns and, in some cases, lead to shift-worker sleeping disorder.
As a profession, nursing has several ethical principles that guide their philosophy of practice throughout all tasks in the workplace. These are to
- Provide exemplary care at all times
- Prioritize the care of patients with respect to individual dignity
- Cooperate with other health professionals to improve patient outcomes
- Act with integrity and honesty to maintain the profession reputation
In accordance with these principles, nurses are able to care for patients in the best way possible to promote positive health outcomes.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc
Last Updated: Aug 8, 2016