Although there are many things a nurse should do every shift, there is one thing that stands out among the others, and this is autonomy. You may wonder why autonomy is so important, but it is vital that nurses remember that they are autonomous.
Autonomy means that a nurse can act under their own judgment. Doctors do not command us.
We decide if what they have “ordered” is within the best interests of the patients. How many times have you caught a mistake that a doctor has made and possibly saved a life?
Autonomy means that we know that our licenses give us the ability to act on our own, and we should remember that. Sometimes it is just so easy to “plug and chug.”
We can hand out the medicine and not even pay attention, act like automatons, and just rely on the judgment of others to ensure that everything is safe and the patient is well taken care of.
What you should do every shift is remind yourself that you are an independent medical professional. It is so easy to forget that we are just as important as anyone else in the great panoply of medical professionals.
Nurses are the hub. Everything comes through us, and that means that the patients are relying on us to get it right.
Remind yourself that you are more than just someone who is bogged down with a heavy assignment. You are more than someone who is handing out a ton of medications.
You are more than someone who is taking orders, and you are more than someone who has to run when the doctor is on the phone. You are a colleague.
Nurses have to remind themselves of their autonomy every single shift because it is so easy to forget. Our culture as a profession is not one that remembers something like autonomy.
Nurses always take responsibility for their patients and their clinical actions, but they have to remind themselves that they can stand up and be counted as a peer, too.
The culture of nursing needs to change to one in which nurses know their worth. Nurses need to fight for their autonomy, whether it is at the bedside or even at the advanced practice level.
Nurses ARE autonomous. It is the law. Every shift you should remind yourself of that and practice that. You are as much a singular professional as anyone else in the chain of medical command.