“You’re a nurse, right?”
This is how a recent conversation with a relative who was seeking medical advice started. I’ve always found it amazing how those series of letters after my name (RN BSN) translate into a combination of “webmd,” “ask jeeves,” and “wikipedia” all in one. Of course with the intensive curriculum, covering everything from nutrition and sociology to pathophysiology and microbiology, it is easy to feel like a walking encyclopedia.
I feel proud to have earned the knowledge and nursing experience I have and I am honored to share what I know to help others. The warning I would give to nursing students who are just beginning to realize their perceived role as “ask a nurse” is this: Do not overstep your boundaries, especially from a legal standpoint.
As much as you are eager to share all your new found knowledge with anyone who asks, remember that this is not a casual conversation you have entered into. These are not friends and family members asking for dating advice. Whether they indicate it or not, they are looking to you as a “medical expert” of sorts when it comes to the medication, illness, surgical or any other type of advice that you are so eager to share.
Here is the remedy. Feel free to share what you know. If you want to really show off, feel free to whip out your nursing school textbooks as visual aids. But always, always, always strongly advise the advice seeker to check with their doctor (or health care provider) for a definitive answer. It doesn’t matter if you are absolutely confident that the advice you are giving is solid – cover you license, cover your reputation and cover your conscience. Make sure that whenever you give your best medical words of wisdom, it comes with a disclaimer.
Why you need such a diverse, intensive education – because patients and their families (and your family and friends) will ask you EVERYTHING – the nurse as a walking, talking resource – legal liability – being careful to refer to MD or resources.