Nobody knows what it’s like to be a nurse until you step out onto that floor and start taking patients. In fact, not many nursing students themselves really know what to expect until they start working.
The public has a very definite perception of nurses, how they work, and what they do. Although they may say that they know nursing is hard work, they often don’t know the half of it.
To solve this problem, it is necessary to examine the perceptions of nursing versus the realities that we all know about. Only by exposing what we really do can we make sure that the public understands us and that incoming nurses know what they are getting into.
There are many more false perceptions about nurses than the three listed here, but these are probably among the most common. If you encounter these perceptions, it is time to engage in a little education.
Perception: Nursing is Easy
Reality: Nursing is Hard Work
For some reason, the public seems to think that nursing is easy. It is hard to understand where this perception has come from or why it persists.
We all know that nursing isn’t easy. Perhaps it is the media that make it seem that way or just a general misunderstanding of what nurses actually do.
Unfortunately, nursing is not easy, and it is probably one of the most difficult professions you can enter. Just the work alone is difficult, but when the amount of responsibility is considered, the difficulty rises exponentially.
It would be great for some large news outlet to do a piece on the hardships of nursing and for that to be required reading. If the public understood what we are up against, they may not think that nursing is easy.
Perception: Nursing is Mostly Paperwork
Reality: Nursing is about Clinical Expertise
While it is true that nursing requires an incredible amount of paperwork, that is not all that nurses do. Maybe it is the exposure that the public has to the medical assistants who work in the front office of their doctor’s office that fuels this misconception.
Maybe it is that they just don’t think that nurses have anything to do. Patients go bad all the time, but the public doesn’t know that.
They don’t understand what it is like to be working on that very same paperwork when a patient suddenly has trouble breathing. It is hard for them to accept that it is the patient that comes first always – not the paperwork.
Again, more education is needed for the public to understand that paperwork is a fraction of what nurses do – and most of that is charting. We don’t know anything about insurance or coding or medical assistance, but if you need your life saved, we are there to do the job.
Perception: Doctors make all the decisions
Reality: Nurses Make Valuable Contributions to Care
This misperception is a holdover from a time when doctors really were the ones in control. Nurses would have to give up their seats for the doctors, follow them on rounds to take notes, and generally depend on them for all aspects of patient care.
Not much has been done to dispel this lingering idea of the nursing profession, but it could not be anything further from the truth. While doctors do yield a great deal of authority when treating patients, it is usually with the help and consent of the nurse.
Nurses are concerned with patient safety, and they know their stuff. If a doctor makes a bad choice, we are licensed bound to stand up and refuse that order.
This may come as a surprise to the general public who think that only doctors do medical “stuff” and are responsible for the clinical end of medical care. They don’t realize that nurses are the thin white line that protects the patient, helps to make decisions, and keep the wheels of healthcare turning.