’Our sole goal is to keep people healthy’

Nurses Week Salute

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

’Our sole goal is to keep people healthy’With two emergent medical crises in the last year, most residents did not need the national observance of Nurses Week to remind them of the value of our front-line workers in healthcare.

“The earthquake kind of prepared us for the pandemic, to be honest,” said Celia Mills, community health administrator of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. “We had an opportunity to work out our emergency procedures and develop a really great sense of teamwork.

“So in the last few months we have really seen a great deal of support for nurses and hospitals, but I think some of us have also developed a very deep appreciation of those who support nurses.”

Fitting timing for a week that concurrently celebrates both nursing in particular and hospitals in general. The observance of the former is tied to the birth of Florence Nightingale — widely regarded as the mother of the profession.

In 1854, Nightingale led a group of women to the Crimea to help care for wounded British soldiers. Afterward schools were organized around her principles, ground-breaking at the time, that educated and informed students on the ways to promote and improve good health.

But in the intervening years, the profession has evolved to a highly technical workforce of women and men who possess life-saving skills and training.

“A nurse is almost like a conductor,” said Mills. “You are doing what the doctor has ordered, but you are orchestrating a plan of care between an interdisciplinary team. If anyone is out of step, it won’t necessarily work.”

It is an incredible advancement from the 19th-century ladies who cleaned wounds and mopped brows. Even in 1921, when Mills’ grandmother graduated from nursing school, student training focused on building fires, cooking porridge and making bandages in poultices.

The field continued to develop, but the rate of growth in the last few decades has been exponential.

“Even when I started nursing in 1983, if you had a monitor and an IV pump you were very sick.” Nurses had to calculate the drops per minute by marking IV bags and observing how quickly fluids were transmitted.

“There are so many things that are different now.” Hospital stays were more common, and far longer. “If you had a broken femur, you might be in traction for 12 weeks,” she said. “Today, you could have it repaired with surgery and be home in three days.”

Treatment for serious diseases like cancer were long and complicated. Today patients come to the outpatient pavilion for care — overseen by a nurse.

“We still have doctors planning treatment, but training and skill-level with nurses is much more complex. Nurses must be capable of more complicated procedures and technology,” said Mills.

“I don’t think nurses are seen any longer as a physician’s handmaiden, but as an ally — and even an extension — of a doctor. You are performing treatments, observing and reporting to the doctor.”

As that role has grown, so has the specialization. Today’s nurses serve on the front lines in hospitals and clinics, as well as in a vast array of community service roles to promote public health.

Mills acknowledged that the need for continued education has intensified, “But the good part about it is that we can retrain for a variety of different roles without having to go back and earn a different degree.”

“I am very proud to have served at the hospital for 31 years in many, many different areas,” she said.

“The thing that makes my job, whatever job I am doing, easy is working with the amazing nurses and healthcare providers we have here. We have an amazing team.”

The nurse’s role as a healer comes with a special degree of complexity. Dorothea Orem defined the model of nursing as “The act of assisting others in the provision and management of self-care to maintain or improve human functioning at home level of effectiveness.”

Unlike romanticized visions of yesteryear’s nurse, “That means that even though we are always an advocate for the patient, sometimes we are not always their friend. It requires having tough conversations with patients and their families, sometimes, when you know it is in their best interest to get up and move despite being in pain,” said Mills.

“We strive for excellent customer service, but we have to put your healing as our first consideration. Getting well and healthy is not pain-free. It’s not a comfortable or even a pleasant experience some times.

“But we are in this together, and we are in it for the good our our patients and our community. Our sole goal is to keep people healthy.”

Pictured: Nurses at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. - Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2020-05-08