Have You Hugged a Nurse Today?

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This week is National Nurses Week,  for the millions of men and women who dedicate their lives to providing top-notch health care. Over 3-million strong, nurses make up the largest group of all the different health-care professionals. There are more nurses than us doctors! However, I couldn’t do my job if it weren’t for the team of nurses who work by my side. Here’s how I work with nurses:

Imagine standing next to me in the operating room, where I’m surrounded by nurses who are just as involved with my patients’ care as I am. Before surgery, my patient rests in a pre-op area, where a nurse monitors their vital signs. As he or she is moved to the operating room, a circulating nurse takes over. This important person acts as the patient’s advocate, who ensures the operating room is safe and sterile. The circulating nurse interviews the patient and makes sure the surgeon (me) is aware of the patient’s allergies and medications.

As we prepare for surgery, another nurse, the nurse anesthetist, prepares medications and starts putting the patient to sleep with the assistance of the anesthesiologist. This is just one of many ways that nurses and doctors work together for you.

Let’s learn a little more about how important nurses are.

  • National Nurses Week goes from May 6 through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
  • Most nurses are women; however, there are a growing number of men joining the field. Currently, 7% of nurses are men, but nursing schools are reporting larger numbers of men. Some are 15% men.
  • What recession? If you become a nurse, you’ll always have a job. The Department of Labor named nursing as one of the top 10 careers for job growth, and in many parts of the country, there’s a shortage of nurses.
  • Nurses are also teachers. An important part of their job is educating patients (and sometimes us doctors). They may teach things like how to monitor blood sugar, how to inject insulin, how to recover from a surgery, how to care for a newborn, etc.
  • Multiple studies have shown that the more nurses that are present in a particular area, the lower the death rate. So make sure to keep plenty of nurses around you!

You may wonder how one becomes a nurse. The most traditional route involves attending a four-year nursing school, which grants the student a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. While they don’t train as long as physicians, their education is just as rigorous.

In the classroom, they study pathology, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and more. In the hospital, nursing students spend up to 12-14 hours on their feet in the hospital wards checking temperatures, inserting IV lines, administering medication, changing dressings, documenting progress. After four years of learning and some blood, sweat and tears, the student would take a licensing exam to become a certified nurse.

Many people become nurses as a second or third career after working in banking, business, education, technology and more. They instead pursue a shorter nursing program that is just as rigorous! Plus, many continue their education in nursing to get a masters and doctorate degrees.  Some prescribe medication as nurse practitioners, while others help put you to sleep as nurse anesthetists, which I mentioned earlier — both specialties require additional years of training.

Not all nurses work in the hospital wards. Only 60% work in hospitals while the other 40% work pretty much everywhere else: in schools, with corporations, for pharmaceutical companies, for wellness centers, with universities, or for the government.

So, if you see a nurse, thank him or her. They deserve it for all the hard work they do!