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Going the Extra Mile for Patients

Nursing is a field that requires dedication and hard work from those who practice it.

The ANA’s code of ethics states that all nurses must practice with compassion and respect for the individual, advocate for their patients, and work to improve the healthcare environment while advancing the professional practice of nursing. This is a tall order! Yet in addition to all this, so many nurses find ways to go the extra mile for their patients. Sometimes it’s through amazing acts of kindness or comfort, as with the Veteran’s Administration nurse who gave his own new shoes to a homeless patient suffering from large, open foot sores that weren’t healing properly. Other times, nurses go the extra mile by advocating for their patients against the odds, when it seems no one is listening – as in a recent story from ADVANCE for Nurses, that recounted the tale of an astute nurse who recognized the early signs of sepsis and deterioration in a patient, even though the patient’s cardiac surgeon was fine with the patient’s lab results. This nurse had to stay incredibly determined and committed, finally convincing a hospitalist to authorize a transfer to the ICU, where intubation and antibiotics ultimately saved the patient’s life.

Both of these anecdotes involve extreme circumstances that some of us may never have experienced as nurses. Yet even when we’re not faced with a patient who has dramatic needs or challenges, there are many ways we can go the extra mile for our patients in general. It goes back to the ANA code of ethics, which talks about a nurse’s obligation to work for improvements in the healthcare environment.

For example, mentoring a younger nurse may be seen as form of patient advocacy. Sharing your knowledge with new or less experienced nurses can make a positive impact on their professional development – thereby enhancing their ability to provide high quality nursing care. When you seize upon every opportunity to act as an informal mentor, you can provide coaching, advice, and an empathetic ear to someone who needs a sounding board – all in an unstructured, casual manner. It’s a great way to advance nursing practice at your hospital and throughout the profession.

Advancing your education is another way to go the extra mile for your patients. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has stressed the importance of nurses having more educational parity with other members of the healthcare team. When you attain a higher level of education, whether a BSN, MSN, or DNP, you are better equipped to function as part of a multi-disciplinary care team that includes healthcare professionals like physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and physical therapists, who are all educated at the graduate and post-graduate level. As a frontline caregiver, you can prepare for increasing complexity in healthcare with the sense of empowerment that comes with an advanced education. Under the Affordable Care Act, nurses in general will be asked to practice more autonomy, and to take on specialty roles like case management, infection control, and informatics. Specialized MSN programs in nursing education can help you feel ready for the upcoming challenges in nursing.

Even away from the bedside, nurses can go the extra mile for their patients by helping to transform healthcare through regulatory change. Again, education can help prepare you to support change and advance wellness initiatives by influencing policy at the hospital, state, and federal level.

Earning your RN license was a big accomplishment. But healthcare is changing. Let’s face it – you can only do so much for your patients without advancing your education. A BSN program helps nurses to develop critical thinking skills and improve existing communication skills. It can open minds to new ideas and new models of care – resulting in the highest possible standard of patient care that you’re able to provide. Perhaps this is why such a large body of research has linked BSN-prepared nurses with better patient outcomes.

An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like case management, informatics, or infection control. These areas require strategizing, collaborative relationships, and a multi-dimensional approach to tackling a problem (like preventing unnecessary hospital readmissions or discovering the source of an infection outbreak, for example). Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.

American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees,  including an RN-to BSN program and advanced degree programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, or executive leadership.

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