AACN News—May 2009—Opinions

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Vol. 26, No. 5, MAY 2009

President’s Note

Caryl Goodyear-Bruch RN, PhD, CCRN

Dear Editor

Every nurse is a leader. We recognize a need, we do something about it. We help patients navigate through our complex and broken healthcare system. No one spends more time at the patient’s bedside than a nurse. The public recognizes our value and trusts us. Year after year, Gallup polls rank us as the most trustworthy profession.

The Economic Value of Professional Nursing

Nurses are cost effective in tough economic times. We save money while keeping patients safe. To accomplish this requires a solid professional education, astute clinical reasoning and expert critical thinking. Nurses possess all three. Indeed, we cannot do our work without them. An article in the January 2009 issue of the journal Medical Care reports a landmark study to quantify the economic value of professional nursing. The study found that, even when only a portion of nurses’ care can be quantified in financial terms, an increase in RN staff lowers a patient’s risk of hospital acquired complications, like pneumonia, shock and cardiac failure, and patient falls. This results in cost savings and saved lives.

Last Month’s Challenge

Last month I told you a story about five minutes of confidence in the life of a nursing student. Five minutes that should have been familiar to each of us. I challenged you to join me in communicating a confident personal story of nurses’ value to an audience of your choice. I turned that five-minute story into a letter to the editor of my local newspaper. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Editor

I am a critical care nurse who works in an ICU. I write to emphasize the value of nurses to ensure safety and provide quality care in hospitals. As a critical care nurse I am educated to assess patients, critically consider possible treatments, carry out the right treatment, and collaborate with other healthcare providers to ensure good outcomes for a patient. Because nurses are with patients 24/7, we know their treatment wishes and how they’re likely to respond to treatments. Because of our education, we can walk into someone’s hospital room and, with a practiced and thorough inspection, know when the person needs help right away.

Take yesterday. I walked into an ICU patient’s room and saw a low blood pressure reading on the monitor. The patient’s breathing and color were normal and he wasn’t sweating. His pulse was normal. So was his heart rhythm. His blood oxygen level was normal, too. When I asked, he wasn’t in pain, didn’t feel dizzy or short of breath. None of this matched the low blood pressure reading. What did match were the tiny bubbles I saw in the tube through which we were measuring his pressure. The bubbles wouldn’t hurt him, but they caused the inaccurate blood pressure reading. I removed the bubbles and the reading came up to its correct level. All of this happened in less than five minutes. Five critical minutes that could have led to unnecessary treatments and costly complications.

My day in the ICU is filled with an endless array of five minutes like those during which I use my expert knowledge and critical thinking to ensure that patients receive safe and correct care. That patient was well enough to be transferred out of the ICU a few hours later. He could have experienced a very different outcome had I not intervened. Nurses know the latest research evidence and how to use it capably to care for patient when they are most vulnerable. We enjoy what we do and take pride in making that critical difference in someone’s life. Would you join me to celebrate National Nurses Week by publicly acknowledging how much you value the expert knowledge and compassionate care of the nurses in our community?

Your Turn
I kept my promise to share my confident story. Now it’s your turn. Please tell me your audience and send me your story at confidence@aacn.org.

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