AACN News—April 2009—Opinions
Vol. 26, No. 4, APRIL 2009
Caryl Goodyear-Bruch RN, PhD, CCRN
Telling Your Confident Story
The arterial monitor read 80 systolic when I walked into the room. The patient looked OK — good skin color, no sweating, even breathing, heart rate of 92. The SpO2 showed a good waveform, 94% saturation. “How do you feel?” I asked. “Any pain? Shortness of breath?” “I’m fine,” he said. So I went directly to troubleshoot the arterial line. I flushed and re-zeroed it. I made sure the air-fluid interface was at the phlebostatic level. The systolic reading came up to 96. While I was troubleshooting I noticed tiny bubbles in the line and I made sure to get them out. Just a few tiny bubbles really affect accuracy, don’t they?
Five familiar minutes during an ICU or progressive care nurse’s work shift, wouldn’t you say? Then why was I especially proud of the person who told this story? My eyes welled up because she was one of my students speaking during a post clinical conference. She wasn’t known for her confidence. At least not until her critical care rotation when everything seemed to gel. Then she began to act like a nurse. Talk like a nurse. Think like a nurse.
How much do we pack into five minutes at a patient’s bedside? Our immediate assessment doesn’t take long. A few seconds, I suspect. But in that assessment we might critically identify and analyze signs of low blood pressure, altered consciousness, decreased perfusion. We go on to validate this analysis, think through the options and intervene.
We are thorough and precise. By need, what we do often becomes second nature and we take it for granted. We forget to acknowledge the value we bring to patients and their families. And we almost never tell our confident stories.
I’m touched when I hear a nurse telling a confident story. Sometimes I hear it in person as I travel around the country. Other times I read it in e-mails, like the stories sent to me each month by the Central Indiana Chapter members. These stories inspire me and give me hope for the future of nursing. They reaffirm how intelligent we are and how deeply we care. They bring home the critical difference that nurses make in a patient’s journey toward healing or a peaceful death.
But do you believe the public knows about our confidence? I don’t. They often see only our caring demeanor. The rest remains invisible. In May, Nurses Week and National Critical Care Awareness and Recognition Month give us ideal opportunities to tell our stories to the public. Confident stories that vividly describe knowledge, critical thinking and advocacy that extend beyond our caring.
Pick your audience. Who will it be? Maybe you’ll tell your story to an individual. Maybe small groups. Your family and friends. Your running partners or book club group. Maybe to your entire community in a letter to the editor or on a radio or TV program. The larger the audience, the better. No matter who your audience is, be sure you emphasize that:
• The public trusts nurses
• Nurses are there for patients and their families
• No one spends more time at a patient’s bedside than a nurse
• Nurses have many faces
• Nurses are leaders and role models
• Nurses solve clinical puzzles and keep patients safe
• Nurses recognize that patients are much more than symptoms that need treatment
• Nurses help patients and families navigate the system and understand health needs
• Nurses are cost-effective in tough economic times
When you tell your story, please include me in that audience. You can do that by sending your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me be your partner and pass it forward.
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