As I've sat in hospitals during the past two years with my ailing mother, I've come to the sad conclusion that I must grieve for the loss of the nursing profession. I became an RN in 1979, devoted to learning and caring for people in hospitals. The training in those days was rigorous. At times, I thought it was too rigid. But I've recently come to respect this training as a lost art.
I decided to go to dental school as an older adult. My training as a nurse—which taught me that appearance and demeanor were as important as the knowledge being drummed into our heads—greatly assisted me. I'd learned to listen to patients and their families, and age had taught me that I didn't always have to be right.
I've developed a pretty good idea why there are so many medical errors today. Physicians and nurses have, for the most part, forgotten how to listen. They've lost the ability to think outside of a textbook. As a nurse, for instance, I was taught to assist patients in bathing daily. This practice has all but disappeared, replaced by countless physicians and nurses entering information into computers, barely looking up to recognize the patients' physical or mental pain or status.
In the hospital setting, anxious patients are asked to give their medical history and drug allergy information repeatedly. They're asked ad nauseam to spell their names and recite their birth dates. Those sick enough to be hospitalized don't need this constant, senseless repetition.
Nursing should revert to the caring, knowledgeable profession it once was. The patient is like an accessory now, rather than the main focus. There's no doubt that health care has come a long way, but we need to remember that we entered this profession to serve and care for patients in a knowledgeable, respectful manner.
Susan Pugliese, DDS, RN