5 Truths About Nursing Everyone Needs to Know

Lovely latin nurse on blue uniform standing

National Nurses Week is celebrated each year starting on May 6 and ending on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year’s theme is Ethical Practice, Quality Care. The week is set aside to honor and recognize all nurses around the world for their contributions to promoting the health, well-being, comfort, and safety of the population–no small job!

Here are several myths and misconceptions about the nursing profession debunked.

Myth: Nurses are assistants to physicians.

Reality: We are actually equal partners in health care, each with a separate and unique yet vital role. One is not an elevated version of the other. Nurses work to keep you healthy and well, helping you to heal when necessary, providing you comfort and care, supporting you at the end of your life, and bringing new life into the world.

Myth: Real men don’t go into nursing.

Reality: More and more men are discovering the great opportunities that nursing offers, including satisfying and meaningful work, good salary and many pathways to advancement. And although only 7% of all current nurses are men, schools of nursing are reporting that their student body consists of 12-15% men. So, those numbers will be increasing!

Myth: Most nurses work in hospitals.

Reality: Only about half of all nurses work in hospitals. The rest work in varied settings such as public health, schools, corporations, pharmaceutical companies, wellness centers, law firms, law-enforcement agencies and government agencies, just to name a few. Nurses also work doing health research, setting health-care policy, running not-for-profit and government health agencies, as health care facility administrators, and managing technology and patient-care data.

Myth: There’s a nursing shortage because no one wants to be a nurse anymore.

Reality: On the contrary, most schools of nursing have a two- to three-year waiting list to get into their programs. Nursing is a hot career goal these days! The shortage, which is starting to show itself, is a result of an increased need for nurses as the population ages, nurses taking on more roles in the healthcare sector, and a large number of baby boomer nurses predicted to retire soon.

Myth: Physicians are the real experts in health care.

Reality: Nurses are health-care experts in their own right. Much of their work involves health teaching to patients and family members. Examples include: Teaching an adolescent (and his/her family) who is newly diagnosed with diabetes how to monitor blood sugar, inject themselves with insulin, prevent complications and so on; helping and supporting a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer to navigate her way through the scary and convoluted maze of cancer treatment, symptom management and medical appointments; working closely with a man who has recently had a heart attack to prepare him for the physical and emotional challenges of his medical condition while returning home and continuing his recovery and rehabilitation; instructing first-time parents how to care for their newborn; providing grief counseling and support to family members of loved ones who are dying or have passed away. These are just a few examples.

Nurses also have expertise in wound care, minimizing the risk of infections, avoiding and treating skin ulcers, managing pain, managing chronic illness, maintaining and attaining health and well-being, providing comfort care, counseling, coaching and much more.

Happy Nurses Week to all my colleagues around the world!