Messages from the Nursing Department
The definition of nursing is constantly being redefined as medical professionals reconsider the responsibilities and duties of serving patients. As the definitions expand to encompass all aspects of a nurse’s profession, so too does the public image of what a nurse is. Many people have a limited view of nurses as only being assistants to doctors. However, this perception of nurses is wrong, since nurses do so much more. Though some television programs present a myopic view of the nursing profession, in reality nurses are extensively trained and think of intellectual ways of how they can better treat their patient.
The general misconception of a nurse’s responsibilities within their designated workplace mainly stems from the individual’s prior informal knowledge (Black, 2020). One such misguided idea is that nurses are mainly assistants to doctors. A factor that facilitates this viewpoint would be television shows, such as House M.D. and Grey’s Anatomy. Both shows mainly focus on the doctors and their struggles in diagnosing the patient; while nurses are portrayed as maids who clean up after the doctor’s messes, as well as health care personnel who are ordered around by the doctors to administer medication. Since the shows are scripted to dramatize the medical cases in order to enrapture the audience’s attention, it should be noted that the shows contain incorrect ideals and methods when assessing and treating the patient. However, individuals who do not have the extensive knowledge that a certified professional has, would not know that the show was fictitious and would thereby be convinced that the actions and roles of the doctors and nurses were accurate. The idea that nurses are merely background characters within the hospital setting is inaccurate, as they not only conduct basic tests to check the patient’s current status, but they become reliable pillars for patients to emotionally and physically depend on. Nurses are dependable registered medical officials who are responsible for noting physical, emotional, and spiritual changes within their patients, advocating for medication that would best help ease patients’ symptoms, and providing patients with unbiased, open-minded attention (Black, 2020).
As nursing students advance in their education, their perspective of what defines a nurse tends to change. According to Benner (1984), all nurses go through five main stages as they transition from a new nursing student into a qualified expert in the nursing field. The five stages are novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. To progress to each stage, the young nurse will progressively show specific qualities and correct procedures which will then prove that they have advanced into a further skill level (Benner, 1984). As they develop, young nurses don more responsibilities such as an advanced beginner nurse into a competent nurse. Whereas the advanced beginner nurse may correctly complete all the procedures as instructed by the mentor, they are unable to determine which of the procedures are most necessary to conduct on the patient, based on the patient’s situation. With more years of experience, the competent nurse is able to consciously prioritize more important procedures over unnecessary procedures. As the developing nurse surpasses their previous skill level and becomes more experienced, their progress into critical thinking and critical reasoning also develops, resulting in a new mindset and way of thinking like an expert nurse. This new mindset in turn causes a change in perspective as to what aspects define a nurse.
As well as experiencing increased competence and self-esteem while becoming a self-reliant and adroit nurse, a nursing student may likely experience many changes spiritually and emotionally as they evaluate their internal thoughts about the importance of the nurse’s role in providing health care. When asked about what core beliefs keep her motivated to provide the best health care to her patient that she can, Patricia Banner disclosed that she felt that it was always in her nature to want to help others and that she believed that the community as a whole should look out from one another. She states that no one could get by daily without caring practices. She also believes that individuals within the community are so busy competing with one another for monetary success that they lose sight of the true reason that health care is essential (IHI, Open School, 2010). This humble and idealistic attitude towards health care shows that nurses should strive to be selfless in their actions and to dedicate their best efforts to caring for their patients simply because it is their duty as a nurse to attend to members of their community.
Nurses play one of the most vital roles in bettering a patient’s health. The televised depiction of nurses does not encompass the entire scope of a nurse’s duties while servicing their patient. While a nurse does assist a doctor in some procedures, a nurse also has vast knowledge from previous experiences as they develop into expert nurses. In progressing into the most advanced stage of nursing, nurses draw on their experiences from prior patients to properly attend to the members of their community, and prove to their patients and anyone who knows them, that nurses are much more than medical assistants.
Before I began the writing intensive course, I am embarrassed to admit that I was not aware of the full extent the nursing profession has within the healthcare system. Many of my misconceptions were based on inaccurate television shows that entirely misconstrued what a nurse’s profession entailed. Having no prior experience with nurses in a hospital setting also led to my misconceived notions as to what a nurses’ responsibilities are to their patients.
I am currently a junior nursing student at Farmingdale State College. I took the writing intensive course in my spring semester of freshman year. When I first started the writing intensive course, I was apprehensive as to how my professor wanted the essays to be formatted. In prior literature classes, there would always be a learning curve in which one’s essays would improve as one adapted to the new writing style presented in the beginning of the class. I was vaguely familiar with the American Psychological Association’s (APA) essay formatting from my prior English courses; however, applying this format to factual essays about the nursing profession was another challenge. The course consisted of writing three essays reflecting upon a singular topic learned in the course, and a final paper about several of the topics learned in class. Through writing the essays, I not only became stronger in my writing, but I also achieved more confidence writing in the APA format.
When writing an essay, I have noticed that I have a routine. First, I create an outline for myself based on the rubrics the essays are graded on. This keeps me focused on the task at hand. Next, I find the information that I wish to include in my paper, and find appropriate and credited sources to reference. At this point, I usually find some music to listen to as I begin to write my paper. I find that a relaxing playlist doesn’t distract me from my writing and acts as a form of comfort as I spend time concentrating on the paper. After finishing a rough draft, I revise my work until I am satisfied with the outcome. Each essay took me approximately three to six hours to write, with the exception of the final paper that took me eight hours to write. Collecting evidence to prove my points was easy, but learning to prove my claims through cohesive explanations was time consuming. In my opinion, points throughout the essay must flow easily into one another, lest the reader become bored and lose focus of the author’s arguments. When writing a paper, I tend to struggle finding the appropriate words that both convey the meaning of my argument and reflect the more intellectual level of writing that I wish to utilize. I have learned to achieve my goal through trial and error, as well as consulting others to review my writings before submitting it for final grading.
Another of the many struggles I experienced in the class was the lack of in-person clinical experience, as I had to write the papers since I had just started college. Researching information from credible sources gave my classmates and me a deeper view of the history of nursing and showed us, before we had any personal experience interacting with patients, that nurses should always advocate for their patients. Evidence-based practice and the professional attitude of nurses were two concepts that would have been easier to relate to had the papers been written when we began clinicals.
Most writing-intensive courses require you to write a certain number of papers and receive a grade of C or better; however, my professor for the writing-intensive course gave my classmates and me the unique opportunity to rewrite any papers we were unsatisfied with or if we received a failing grade. When writing my second paper, I made many errors, including spelling errors, making generalized statements that expressed opinions rather than giving a critical analysis of the subject with supporting evidence, and claiming that nursing was just an occupation. Initially I had used the term “occupation” only because I thought it was interchangeable with the word “profession” and using a synonym would help prevent my paper from becoming monotonous to the reader. However, I soon came to understand that there is a vast difference between an occupation and a profession. The generalized statements I made in the essay came from previous writing habits developed in English classes. They were meant to lead the reader to my argument; instead, they diminished the analysis of the argument. This is another example of my becoming accustomed to a more highly educated writing style. I was disappointed to receive an average grade of a B–; however, my professor’s comments made me reflect heavily upon my paper. She prompted me to further research the distinction between a profession and an occupation, which made me aware that my thesis was weak; also, my long run-on sentences detracted from the points I was trying to make. The thesis is the crux of a well-written paper, so to say I was disappointed with the grade is an understatement. Keeping the faults of my first essay attempt in mind, I made sure to evaluate my arguments, as well as to limit the wording in my explanations. I revised my thesis to encompass the new argument and found that the paper appeared to fit better under the overall theme. The rewrite of my essay earned me a grade of a B , which I was satisfied with.
The writing intensive course was extremely beneficial to me as a student nurse. Familiarity with APA has greatly benefitted me in my later courses, since my professors expect me to apply the APA format to all papers in their courses. The course also broadened my horizons on what it truly means to be a nurse through deep explorations of the reading material and captivating conversations. My overall takeaway from the course was that it enabled me to gain further insight as to what the nursing profession truly is about, and to become a well-educated writer who can convey and support my arguments with strong evidence.
Benner, P. (1984). From novice to expert: Excellence and power in clinical nursing practice. Reading, ME: Addison-Wesley.
IHI Open School. (2019, November 12). Patricia Benner: What are your core values that keep you going? What is your “true north”? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/J7_Hgn3DFTQ?t=1
Black, B. (2020). Professional nursing: Concepts and challenges (9th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.