Definition of Nursing
Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles. (ICN, 2002)
Nursing, as an integral part of the health care system, encompasses the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and care of physically ill, mentally ill, and disabled people of all ages, in all health care and other community settings. Within this broad spectrum of health care, the phenomena of particular concern to nurses are individual, family, and group "responses to actual or potential health problems" (ANA, 1980, P.9). These human responses range broadly from health restoring reactions to an individual episode of illness to the development of policy in promoting the long-term health of a population.
The unique function of nurses in caring for individuals, sick or well, is to assess their responses to their health status and to assist them in the performance of those activities contributing to health or recovery or to dignified death that they would perform unaided if they had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge and to do this in such a way as to help them gain full of partial independence as rapidly as possible (Henderson, 1977, p.4). Within the total health care environment, nurses share with other health professionals and those in other sectors of public service the functions of planning, implementation, and evaluation to ensure the adequacy of the health system for promoting health, preventing illness, and caring for ill and disabled people. (ICN, 1987)
Definition of a Nurse
The nurse is a person who has completed a program of basic, generalized nursing education and is authorized by the appropriate regulatory authority to practice nursing in his/her country. Basic nursing education is a formally recognised programme of study providing a broad and sound foundation in the behavioural, life, and nursing sciences for the general practice of nursing, for a leadership role, and for post-basic education for specialty or advanced nursing practice. The nurse is prepared and authorized (1) to engage in the general scope of nursing practice, including the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and care of physically ill, mentally ill, and disabled people of all ages and in all health care and other community settings; (2) to carry out health care teaching; (3) to participate fully as a member of the health care team; (4) to supervise and train nursing and health care auxiliaries; and (5) to be involved in research. (ICN, 1987)
Roles of a Nurse
The primary role of a nurse is to advocate and care for individuals of all ethnic origins and religious backgrounds and support them through health and illness. However, there are various other responsibilities of a nurse that form a part of the role of a nurse, including to:
- Record medical history and symptoms
- Collaborate with team to plan for patient care
- Advocate for health and wellbeing of patient
- Monitor patient health and record signs
- Administer medications and treatments
- Operate medical equipment
- Perform diagnostic tests
- Educate patients about management of illnesses
- Provide support and advice to patients
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A nurse is a caregiver for patients and helps to manage physical needs, prevent illness, and treat health conditions. To do this, they need to observe and monitor the patient, recording any relevant information to aid in treatment decision-making.
Throughout the treatment process, the nurse follows the progress of the patient and acts accordingly with the patient’s best interests in mind. The care provided by a nurse extends beyond the administration of medications and other therapies. They are responsible for the holistic care of patients, which encompasses the psychosocial, developmental, cultural, and spiritual needs of the individual.
The patient is the first priority of the nurse. The role of the nurse is to advocate for the best interests of the patient and to maintain the patient’s dignity throughout treatment and care. This may include making suggestions in the treatment plan of patients, in collaboration with other health professionals.
This is particularly important because patients who are unwell are often unable to comprehend medical situations and act as they usually would. It is the role of the nurse to support the patient and represent the patients best interests at all times, especially when treatment decisions are being made.
Planning of Care
A nurse is directly involved in the decision-making process for the treatment of patients. It is important that they are able to think critically when assessing patient signs and identifying potential problems so that they can make the appropriate recommendations and actions.
As other health professionals, such as doctors or specialists, are usually in charge of making the final treatment decisions, nurses should be able to communicate information regarding patient health effectively. Nurses are the most familiar with the individual patient situation as they monitor their signs and symptoms on an ongoing basis and should collaborate with other members of the medical team to promote the best patient health outcomes.
Patient Educationand Support
Nurses are also responsible for ensuring that patients are able to understand their health, illnesses, medications, and treatments to the best of their ability. This is of essence when patients are discharged from hospital and will need to take control of their own treatments.
A nurse should take the time to explain to the patient and their family or caregiver what to do and what to expect when they leave the hospital or medical clinic. They should also make sure that the patient feels supported and knows where to seek additional information, if needed, is crucial.
The term nurse originates from the Latin word nutire, which means to suckle. This is because it referred primarily to a wet-nurse in the early days and only evolved into a person who cares for the sick in the late 16th century.
The first known documents that mention nursing as a profession were written approximately 300 AD. In this period, the Roman Empire endeavored to build a hospital in each town that was under its rule, leading to a high requirement for nurses to provide medical care alongside the doctors.
The profession of nursing became considerably more prominent in Europe in the middle ages, due to the drive for medical care from the Catholic church. In this period, there were many advancements and innovations that took place, which eventually went on to form the base of modern nursing, as we know it.
The first Spanish hospital was built in the late 500s to early 600s in Merida, Spain, with the intent to care for any sick individuals regardless of ethnic origin or religion. Several others were created in the following centuries but their upkeep was neglected until Emperor Charlemagne began to restore them and update the supplies and equipment in the 800s.
Throughout the 10th and 11th centuries, the nursing profession expanded due to changes in rulings in Europe. Hospitals began to be included as part of monasteries and other religious places and the nurses provided a range of medical care services, as was required, even beyond traditional healthcare. This all-encompassing model gained popularity and continues to be responsible for the wide range of duties a nurse is responsible for today.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the nursing as a profession was rare due to various reasons, such as the closing of monasteries that housed the hospitals. However, in some regions of Europe where the Catholic church remained in power, the hospitals remained and nurses retained their role.
Florence Nightingale was a nurse who tended to injured soldiers in the Crimean War in the 1850s and played a significant role in changing the nature of the nursing profession in the 19th century.
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During this time, the role of nurses continued to expand due to the need for their presence on the front lines of wars, where poor hygiene standards often led to fatal infections in the injuries. Nightingale campaigned for improved hygiene standards in the hospital attending the wounded soldiers, which drastically reduced the number of deaths from infections.
The profession of nursing was pushed further forward in 1860 with the opening of the very first nursing school in London. This was the beginning of many other schools for new nurses so that they received appropriate training and education before they began practice on the field.
However, the need for nurses expanded with the world wars in the twentieth century, and many nurses were required to begin providing care without adequate training. Since this time, education institutions for nurses have continued to expand.
The profession has also branched out into various specializations with further education in particular fields of nursing care, such as pediatrics or oncology.