The most important role of the nurse will always be at the bedside. That is, as long as people continue getting sick and needing hands on, direct, skilled, compassionate care.
Since I do not see illness and injury becoming extinct anytime soon, I think it is safe to say that the principles of patient care passed on for generations by the original “lady with the lamp” Florence Nightingale, will continue to remain at the core of nursing education.
The face of health care, however, is changing as the field and everyone in it attempts to accommodate the expanding needs of hospital systems, communities, patient populations such as baby boomers and politicians seeking a solution to allow all their constituents access to care.
Nurses, often seen as central, unifying figures in health care, have more flexibility in their role than ever before. In addition to their bedside roles, nurses can now seek out opportunities in public health, wellness and preventative medicine, and continuing education among many other areas of health care. As nurses strike out in new and exciting directions, many of their conventional roles are being taken over by LPN’s, certified nurse’s aides and other patient care assistants.
Due to the growing shortage of physicians, nurses may also want to seriously consider furthering their education and becoming nurse practitioners. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are doing their part to assist with the shortage of doctors. Both PA’s and NP’s can perform nearly all of the primary patient care functions (including prescribing medications) that traditionally required a physician.
To succeed in the rapidly evolving fields of nursing and health care overall, new nurses need to be as educated, multi-faceted and flexible as humanly possible. This is especially true when looking at a national patient population that runs the full spectrum of health care needs.
Some patients place alternative medicine and wellness at the top of their list of health care priorities, while others are adamant about receiving the latest treatments, most high tech diagnostics and best pharmaceuticals that their insurance can buy. Even Florence Nightingale may have found it challenging to keep up with the diverse needs of a diverse patient population.