Nurses fill vital role

To the editor:

National Nurses Week is Monday through May 12. This week was established by the American Nurses Association in 1993 to recognize registered nurses in the United States. This week corresponds with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who has been credited with the development of modern nursing. Each year there is a theme for National Nurses Week, and the theme this year is “Nurses: Caring Today for a Healthier Tomorrow.”

There are 4 million registered nurses in the United States. There also are licensed practical nurses who work closely with registered nurses to provide nursing care. Nursing is a predominantly female profession, but 10 percent of nurses are male. Nurses represent all ethnic groups and religions. When nurses finish their basic educational programs, they must pass a comprehensive test, the NCLEX, which is a national test. Once a nursing graduate passes the NCLEX, he or she can apply to be licensed in any state. Some nurses become licensed in more than one state and must be licensed in every state in which they practice. Nursing practice is governed by a state’s nurse practice act. The nurse must practice within the parameters of the nurse practice act in the state in which he/she is practicing. Nurses work in many settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health, public health, schools, schools of nursing and faith communities. Nursing traditionally has been recognized as one of the most trusted professions.

Some nurses choose to become advanced practice nurses: Nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists. This requires additional education and other testing before they can apply for their advanced practice licenses. The requirements for maintaining these licenses are more stringent than for nurses who do not have an advanced practice role.

Nurses are required to complete continuing education in order to maintain their licenses. The educational offerings must be approved by the state board of nursing. Nurses must offer proof of their continuing education if requested by the state board. Nurses can be reported to the state board for misconduct. The role of the state board is to protect the public, so actions can be taken by the state board for misconduct by a nurse. These actions can include temporary or permanent suspension of a nurse’s license.

Nursing is a mentally and physically challenging profession. Many nurses work long hours, such as 12- hour shifts. A nurse cannot legally abandon a patient; therefore, nurses may work unexpected overtime in order to maintain an adequate number of nurses to care for a patient population. Depending upon the place of employment, nurses work weekends and holidays.

Although nursing is a challenging profession, most nurses are dedicated professionals. During National Nurses Week, take the time to thank nurses for the care that they provide.

Michalene King



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