The Role of Nursing Today

Authored by: Cindy Johnson, RN, Nursing Supervisor

The following job description was given to nurses in 1887:

In addition to caring for your 50 patients, each nurse will follow these regulations:

Daily sweep and mop the floor, dust the patient’s furniture and window sills.  Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.  Each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks.  Wash the windows once a week.  The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the physician’s work.  Make your pens carefully; you may whittle nibs to your individual taste.  Each nurse will report to work every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. except on the Sabbath on which day you will be off from 12 noon to 2 p.m.  Graduate nurses in good standing the with director will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes or two evenings in a week if you go regularly to church.  Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop, or frequents dance halls will give the director good reason to suspect her worth.  The nurse who performs her labors without fault for five years will be given an increase of five cents a day providing there are no hospital debts outstanding.

Fortunately, the role of nurses has changed dramatically.  Nurses are an important part of each treatment team at Community Support Services providing ongoing coordination of care for our clients.  The role of the nurse has evolved from one of servitude to being driven by the needs of the client.  The client who has been unable to recognize the need for health care or has neglected to seek out healthcare due to mental illness needs to be identified by the treatment team.   Once identified, it is the nurse’s responsibility to make sure clients are offered the opportunity to actively participate in their own treatment planning related to their physical health.   Health assessments are completed which identify past and current medical issues, risk factors for preventable diseases, and other pertinent medical information which can assist primary care and psychiatrists in determining the best approach to treatment.

Another vital role of the nurse is to be a client advocate for clients  who require additional nursing care or services in the community which would allow them to continue living in the community, as opposed to nursing homes.  Often times managed care companies attempt to deny these services and it is the nurse who appeals the decision and advocates for the client.

Along with encouraging adherence to a client’s treatment plan, nurses provide ongoing education to clients and other members of the treatment team to ensure each individual is offered every opportunity to take control of their health.