How Do Nurses Influence? Nurses Week 2018


How Do Nurses Influence? Nurses Week 2018

By Debra Wood, RN

This year’s 2018 National Nurses Week theme “Nurse's: Inspire, Innovate, Influence” calls attention to nursing professionals ability to change lives for the better. Nurses inspire patients to strive and to achieve their goals. They come up with creative solutions to problems, and they influence patients to take steps toward better health.

Nurses Week 2018 Celebrates a Nurses Influence

“Nurses meet patients and families during life-altering events, facing a new diagnosis, in the midst of a severe illness, during a birth or as death approaches,” said Sarah Delgado, MSN, RN, ACNP, clinical practice specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). “During these experiences, the patients often feels less than human, maybe even powerless within a system they don’t understand. The nurse is the human connection that influences how the patient and family perceive the situation and themselves in the environment.”

Nurses influence patients while providing care. We are observant, from the moment we first meet a patient, we are assessing their appearance, ability to ambulate, and what they know about their conditions and what they need to know. 

“Education is a fundamental part of what we do,” said Yhovana Gordon, EdD, DNP, ARNP, FNP-BC, chair of Graduate Nursing - Advanced Practice Nursing Programs and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Florida International University’s Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Miami. 

“Our greatest influence comes from being able to engage in a relationship with the patients who see me as someone they can trust,” Gordon said. 

Nurses should show competence in providing care, Gordon added. It is important for the nurse to quickly build a relationship with the patient. Nurses also must care for patients in a nonjudgmental way, Gordon added. 

“By providing clear reliable information, listening with sincerity, smiling, touching a hand or offering supportive silence, the nurse’s presence empowers patients and their families by recognizing who they are,” Delgado explained.

As we tend to the tasks that need completing, nurses not only assess but can use that time to talk with the patient. 

“You have to be sensitive about the right moment, and you need to take advantage of teachable moments,” Gordon said. “That is the active way of educating the patient.”

Through education tailored to the individual, nurses can influence patients to make healthy choices, to exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables, or to stop smoking. 

The passive approach to patient learning is through observing the nurse. Nurses should serve as good role models, following a healthy lifestyle. 

“You cannot preach what you cannot do,” “It’s very difficult to tell the patient to stop smoking when the nurse walks in smelling like an ashtray.”

Nurses Focus on Patient Advocacy

Nurses also focus on what motivates the patient and tailor lessons to the patient’s goals. 

“Being on the frontlines, nurses see the changes in a patient's condition and make decisions that ensure fast and appropriate treatment,” Delgado said. “A nurse’s vigilance means earlier intervention, which leads to better patient outcomes.”

Nurses also influence outcomes by advocating for patients who are unable to speak up for themselves. 

“Patients who can’t speak for themselves depend on nurses to be the voice that keeps their interests in mind, looking not just at what the treatment should be but also at what the patient’s goals and values are,” Delgado said. 

Patients may not be able to remember the care they receive while in the hospital, but they rarely forget a nurse's compassion and personal connection.

At the Chapter Presidents Luncheon at AACN’s 2017 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition, Jenny Aycock, MSN, RN, CCRN, interim director of Emergency Services and Operations at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, recounted caring for a patient more than 20 years prior. 

The man arrived at the hospital after a vehicular accident. He could not talk or see. Aycock decided to hold his hand and reassured him that she was with him. She would not let go, even when he had a CT scan. She related to the chapter presidents feeling that she wanted him to know he was not alone. 

This care, not the medications given, not the other tasks, made a lasting impression on the patient. He talked about Aycock in a book he wrote and said she saved his life. He later returned to the hospital to talk about patient experiences, and they reconnected. She told the presidents at the luncheon that “small gestures can change a person’s life for better or worse.”

Nurses also can influence outcomes on a grander scale by becoming involved in policy decisions and shaping the future of health care delivery. 

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