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What You Didn’t Know About Nursing


Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Readying herself for the morning shift, Megan Charles, 24, walks through the doors of the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Megan is one of 2, 909, 357 licensed registered nurses in the United States

Wearing her scrubs, Megan looks like the stereotypical nurse that most of us recognize from Hollywood films. Her job, however, is anything but. Here are a few things about nursing that might surprise you.

Some nurses are highly trained warriors

Imagine yourself confronting an unstable patient much larger and meaner than yourself. Facilities such as the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center require nurses who work in the Psychiatric Ward to take self-defense courses every two months in order to protect themselves from unruly patients. “Sometimes they’re just looking for a fight,” Charles stated. “That’s why they’re here too, we deal with issues ranging from suicide to massive trauma (and) we try to minimize harm, giving a patient a shot can take up to half an hour sometimes.”

Nurses know that loose lips sink ships

Nurses are not allowed to speak about patient issues since they are required to follow the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The act prohibits nurses from speaking about certain aspects of their jobs and their patients. 16-year cancer ward nurse of St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Center, Rita Abbey, argues that privacy is pivotal. “Every time a patient goes to a doctor they have to sign a HIPAA so the HIPAA rules everything, (it) controls (the) privacy and release of information.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

“The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically. The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.”

Nursing requires fluency in other languages and cultures

Given the climate of globalization in our current era, many nurses have been required by their hospitals to become, at a minimum, fluent in at least one other language. Selected nurses learn foreign languages and cultures in order to help them to become better providers for their patients.

“Adaptation is important, you have to make patients comfortable,” stated Dr. Palevi Prusakov of Indiana’s Hammond Clinic during a phone interview. “We get kids here who can’t speak English all the time. You’ve got folks that are hearing impaired or deaf (and) you have to be able to communicate with them, that’s essential.”

Abbey tells a story of how culture and language is important to her profession:

“We had an Arab patient come in and he was in a bad way. We didn’t have interpreters back then. He couldn’t move very well and, you know, we had to strap him and down and we could see that he was in distress. No one knew what it (the reason) was. As it turns out, he was trying to tell us that he had to face the East. It was part of his religion and that’s what we did and it was like everything was okay again. Knowing something about different cultures definitely plays a big role as a nurse.”

Nurses are not always sympathetic

Nursing isn’t all about hugs and kisses, sometimes a person just has to get tough. Those whom were wounded by gunshots or afflicted by diseases will often get better treatment than others, provided they didn’t cause the injuries themselves.

Hurt from a motorcycle accident because you weren’t wearing your motorcycle helmet? Your fault. Lung Cancer from over forty years of chronic smoking? Your fault. Injured because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt? You guessed it.

“My friend was a nurse in a CCU (Critical Care Unit) and one of her patients was drunk driver who had injured himself in an accident,” Charles related. “She had family members who had been hurt from drinking and driving. She still treated him by the standards but she was a lot colder to him than she was with other patients.”

There are certainly some nurses who are biased. However, it doesn’t affect their professional performance.

Most nurses disagree with our current health care program

Every job is political, and nursing is certainly no exception. According to the Nurses for Health Insurance Reform, one primary goal for nurses who are upset with the current health care system is to:

“Emphasize the urgent need to pass health insurance reform this year in order to bring stability and improved care to all Americans and to address rapidly escalating health care costs that are crushing family, business, and government budgets.”

Nurse Abbey believes that these reforms are a long way off from seeing the light of day. Insurance dictates what nurses can do for a patient and, simply put, if an individual did not have any insurance, he/she would not receive any health care whatsoever.

“Everybody should have health insurance,” Abbey said of our current health care system. “There needs to be equality in those terms, you’d be surprised by the number of lives that could have been saved had it not been for the difference in a couple of bucks.”

Despite all of their difficulties, the nurses and health care personnel that I had interviewed for did not seem to view themselves as life-givers nor care-takers. Rather, they know that they are true professionals and strive to be the best at what they do.


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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.