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Don’t call me hero … call me scientist

The world we live in today is forever changed. That’s a good thing in some ways. Historically, nurses have been framed as the caring ones or the angels at the bedside. These aren’t bad descriptors, but they don’t accurately describe today’s nurse. Today’s nurses are scientists, too.

This content origi­nally appeared in the Spring/​Summer 2020 issue (PDF) of The Washington Nurse magazine.

Tara Goode headshot 2018 crop

Tara Goode, MSML, BA, BSN, RN

The world we live in today is forever changed. That’s a good thing in some ways. Historically, nurses have been framed as the caring ones or the angels at the bedside. These aren’t bad descriptors, but they don’t accurately describe today’s nurse. Today’s nurses are scientists, too.

Nursing has been described as one of the most difficult baccalaureate degrees to obtain. It’s challenging, both physically and psychologically. But what some don’t understand is that it’s intellectually challenging as well. Heavy reliance on the sciences makes a BSN degree just that, a science degree. Why do you think that is?

Some of it has to do with the higher level of acuity we see in all settings of health care. We can no longer solely rely on our physician colleagues to carry the load. We must prepare and step up to maximize our education to be at once scientifically based and compassionate. Our advanced practice nurse practitioners are doing just that. They are specializing in highly technical and skilled procedures and are able to take on the majority of most primary care practices independently. This not only allows for better access to care; it also makes room for a clinical partnership in the best interest of the patients.

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When was the last time you were in an ICU? An OR? An L&D birthing suite? If you were to go today and tour these, you would find technology once believed to be out of reach for nurses to understand, let alone expertly manage. The complexity of an ever-changing technical landscape and progress in pharmacology creates a challenging and invigorating environment for nurses to work in, and they are doing it with skill and grace in dangerously challenging circumstances.

Think about what’s happening during this unprecedented COVID-19 response. Who is it taking on enormous risk to be at the bedside? Who is it finding new ways to do things safely considering limited resources? Who is it getting it done every day? Who is it being widely ignored or dismissed by those with profit and control driving them rather than science and patient care? Nurses.

I don’t mean to minimize the “caring” side of nursing. It’s why many of us came to the profession in the first place. Once we got here, we found so much more! I mean to shine the light on the ever-increasing value of nurses. We are the experts in patient care. We are the ones pushing to evolve a broken system. We are the ones who will never leave your side when you are in need. We are nurses, and we are formidable. Imagine what we could do if we all fought for the same thing?

I ask all who read this article to think long and hard about why you’re calling nurses heroes. They are heroes, but wouldn’t it be great if people thought of us as scientists with the potential to change our current system for the better? Scientists who work to evolve the practice and profession in a positive direction through evidence-based research. Scientists who should be heard when they speak up, not just celebrated as heroes for working within a system that is fundamentally driven by money rather than outcomes. It’s time to start listening to the people who best understand the problems we face and are positioned well to design and deliver solutions. It’s time to listen to scientists.