What is Nursing?

What do you think of when you think of a Registered Nurse (RN)? Do you think of a healer, a compassionate caregiver capable of critical thinking, planning and implementing life saving nursing care? Or do you picture a “naughty nurse” in a sexy white dress ready to give you a bed bath or a buff male nurse who’s an ultra-sensitive “boy toy.” Have you seen the reality TV show featuring binge drinking nurses who are constantly dealing with drama in their personal lives? Or perhaps you remember the movie nurse who couldn’t get into medical school so he settled on being a “just a nurse.” There are countless portrayals of nurses as the secondary caregiver, in the back ground, behind physicians, simply noting orders and fetching medical tools. I often find myself frustrated with these images because as a Registered Nurse, I feel these images downplay and undervalue nursing and our role as an essential care giver in the health care system.

Nurses are none of these stereotypes. Well, let’s be honest, sometimes we do fit into these categories, but seriously, being a Registered Nurse is a dynamic and complex job. Besides wearing scrubs with a stethoscope and monitoring patients while working busy 12 hour shifts, what does a RN really do when he or she is Nursing?

On one side of the Nursing spectrum you have the Science of Nursing. This can be taught and is the standardized, systematized knowledge that we have in this day and age of technology and modern Western medicine. It is anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and critical thinking. The Science of Nursing is practicing safe, effective, Evidenced-Based Medicine in an acute setting. A valid nursing license from the State confirms and validates the RN’s knowledge and application of the Science of Nursing.

Nurses follow a standardized protocol, The Nursing Process, to provide nursing care to patient’s in the acute setting. There are 5 steps in the Nursing Process.

1. Assessment: This is the first step in delivering nursing care. It is taking in objective and subjective information in a dynamic, systematic way to gain understanding of the patient’s situation. This involves analyzing data, verbal report from the off-going RN, reading doctor’s orders and progress notes, interpreting lab values, vital signs and trends. It also includes considering psychological, sociocultural, spiritual, economic and life-style factors.

2. Diagnosis: Based off the assessment, this is the nurse’s clinical judgment about the patient’s response to actual and potential health conditions or needs. Nursing Diagnoses are standardized nursing terminology created by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association or NANDA International. The diagnosis is the basis for the Care Plan.

3. Planning Outcomes: Based on the assessment and diagnosis, the nurse creates a Care Plan to set measurable and achievable short- and long-term goals for the patient’s healing and recovery.

4. Intervention: Nursing care is implemented according to Evidenced-Based Medicine practices, protocols or standard nursing procedures. The nurse follows the Care Plan so that there is continuity of care.

5. Evaluation: Both the patient’s status and the effectiveness of the nursing care must be continuously evaluated and the care plan modified as needed until the patient heals, is discharged or passes on.

On the other side of the spectrum you have the Art of Nursing. This can not be taught but is experienced by the nurse. It is with each experience the nurse is able to find intentional and creative uses of her or himself to transmit emotion and meaning to another. These experiences are like tools, gathered along with nursing skills, helping the nurse grow proficient with the art.
 
The Art of Nursing is being a patient advocate; promoting patient safety and positive outcomes to the doctors, other health care workers and the patient’s family. It is encouraging the patient to participate in their care so they feel empowered to heal. The Art of Nursing is taking time to listen, feel and observe what the patient is truly trying to tell you. It is keeping the patient’s highest good the main priority.


The Art of Nursing is the ability to connect with the patient at a deeper level. It is listening your gut feeling and trusting your intuition while creating a compassionate relationship with your patient. The essence of nursing exists within the interactions between patient and nurse and this is where the nurse experiences the Art of Nursing. 


Nursing is practicing the Art of Nursing with the Science of Nursing, which together, are essential for excellence in performing the Nurse’s Mission…providing Nursing care.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing said, “Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.” 

I totally agree. 

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peace, love and nursing 

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