Being Part of America’s Medical Heartbeat: Nursing

In a recent address to the American Nursing Association, representing over 3 million registered nurses all over the U.S., President Obama said, “America’s nurses are the beating heart of our medical system. You’re on the front lines of health care in small clinics and in large hospitals, in rural towns and in big cities, all across America. ( So, what does it take to be part of our medical system’s beating heart and be a real nurse?

Nurses Gotta do the Math

There’s no way around this one, nurses need strong math skills.  It’s been estimated worldwide that nurses spend up to 40 percent of their time administering medications to patients depending on where they work; it takes a lot of math to administer medications. That isn’t all, they also use math to read and interpret medical reports, take vital signs, and communicate with other medical staff about patient status. The type of math that nurses use includes:

  • Statistical analysis used for measuring correct dosages of medications.
  • Decimals and fractions for reading medical reports, interpreting the data, and converting it for each patient.
  • Algebra used every day to administer medications correctly, calculate caloric requirements, calibrate medical equipment, and interpret lab results.
  • Size conversion or dimensional analysis is used to convert pounds to kilograms or metric to imperial measurements, especially when dispensing medications.
  • Measurement is used to determine patient size and growth, patient movement, calculate baby due dates, and many other things.

Nurses Need to be Flexible and Adaptable

Everybody knows the healthcare industry in our nation is in turmoil due to out of control costs and the federal government’s overhaul on health insurance. This impacts everyone working in the medical field, including nurses. To deal with these stresses and changes, nurses need to be flexible, adaptable, and positive in the work place. Some specific ways they can do this are by:

  1. Being punctual to work; it helps everyone get their job done.
  2. Being willing to help co-nurses out, even if they don’t help you back.
  3. Staying positive at work and at home.
  4. Sharing ideas, when invited, with team members that help make your job easier and better.
  5. Talking to someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You aren’t alone. Don’t take it out on patients, your loved ones, or co-workers.

Nurses Need More Education to Shoulder More Responsibilities

Nurses are one of the largest employee groups in the medical care system. They have a lot of responsibility and even more will be expected of them in the future. To help shoulder all this added responsibility, nurses are going to need to get more education. Medical care experts, like Donna Shalala, former Department of Health and Human Services for the US, is recommending the following new educational goals for America’s nurses, (

  • 80 percent of all nurses in the next decade have a bachelor’s degree (4 years of college)
  • 10 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees in nursing go on to obtain a master’s degree in nursing (2 years beyond a bachelor’s degree)

The benefits to all this nursing education impact both nurses and their patients in great ways. Nurses with more education do a better job at treating their patients. Research shows their patients actually live longer and get better faster when nurses have a bachelor’s degree or higher. On the plus side, nurses can make more money with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and have more opportunities to get hired in management and better nursing jobs.

Cultural Competent Nurses

America is becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse every day. America’s nursing staff needs to be skilled in respecting and understanding the different cultural needs of their patients. Deborah L. Flowers, Professor at East Central Oklahoma University Department of Nursing, has said, “A direct relationship exists between a patient’s culture and his or her health; of the many variables known to influence health beliefs and practices, culture is one of the most influential… nurses must have expertise and skill in the delivery of culturally appropriate and culturally competent nursing care.” (

Nurses Need Great Teaching and Communication Skills

A large part of nursing is communicating with patients and teaching them regarding their own health and ways to improve it. This can be really critical especially when patients must continue treatments and healing after they get home from the hospital or another treatment facility. Being a good communicator and teacher takes patience, and it’s not always easy to be patient with a patient. It also takes being sensitive to a patient’s current emotional state. Nurses also have to  teach patients’ caregivers and family members. This can mean giving people time and slowing down long enough to do it right. Here are some important things to remember about good communication and teaching – don’t forget these skills take a while to learn and every one can work on them:

  • Be patient
  • Keep it simple
  • Be willing to repeat things many times
  • Slow down
  • Check for understanding and clarification
  • Make sure it’s written down and patient/caregiver understands it

Nurses – Bring Your Critical Thinking Cap

Competent nurses need great critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is important to nurses every day as they administer medication, look for ways to solve problems, help patients heal, make critical decisions that impact a patient’s life permanently for good or bad, deal with co-staff, and analyze and interpret medical data. To develop strong critical thinking skills, nurses need to be good at:

  1. Gathering information
  2. Focusing on the information and task at hand
  3. Remembering information thoroughly
  4. Organizing facts and information into a useful format
  5. Generating ideas and solutions based on formation
  6. Integrating solutions into the workplace and evaluating the results

Nursing Skills for the Future

Nursing is a career for now and for the future. America needs nurses who are willing to gain more education to stay abreast of new advances in the medical care system. Nurses of today and tomorrow need to be adaptable to the constant changes in their work environments. They must also be flexible, culturally sensitive, and strong critical thinkers as the industry is always changing and presenting nurses with new job responsibilities and demands. Technology will continue to revolutionize the way nurses do their jobs and the industry and patients will continue to expect the highest level of care that nurses can possible give. We just expect our nurses to be the best in the US.

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