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Apr 29

So, what do you do?

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What do you do? It’s such a common question. How do YOU describe your nursing practice? What language do you use? Language is powerful, and brings forth a world for the listener. What world do you bring forth when you talk about your practice? Do you describe it differently depending on who you are talking to? Does your description only involve what you “do” everyday, and “where” you do it?

My two cents: I think if we consistently reduce our language about who we are to what we “do” everyday, or “where” we do it, we don’t do justice to the “why”, and the sheer wonder of what we are privileged to be a part of,  every day.

Thought experiment: you are sitting next to a young woman on a plane. She introduces herself and asks you “what do you do? Now, most of us would answer, appropriately “I am a registered nurse” (after all, she is probably just being polite). Nope, not just being polite; she is really interested, and inquires further (maybe she is interested in being a nurse someday). “So what kind of nursing do you do? So, you answer with what (I think) most of us would say “I’m a surgical nurse”, or “I am a community health nurse” or “I teach at the University” (is this kind of nursing that you do? First, is there more than one kind of nursing? Isn’t that just WHERE you DO nursing?). “So, (she is really persistent) tell me what you do as a surgical nurse”. Now, if you took that question literally, you could answer “Well, I work on a post-surgical unit where I monitor people after they have their surgery, I give medications for pain, I change dressings, I help people go to the bathroom, and wash themselves. Then I get them get out of bed to walk, and then I make sure they have the things they need before they go home”. That is what you DO, to be sure. What world does the language bring forth for you? You can almost hear the young woman thinking “Hmmm… four years of university for that?”  But Shannon, that is a ridiculous example, right?  I would argue that is, in fact, what we do all the time, when we describe our practice–what we do and where we do it. Now, what might be another way to frame the knowledge-based practice that is nursing, succinctly and accurately? I’ll start (then it’s your turn).

“I’m a registered nurse. I work with people who have had surgery, assessing, planning, delivering and evaluating care to ensure the best possible health care experience and health outcome.” Too much? Too little?

 YOUR TURN! Please share your thoughts here!

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