The journey of life – Nurses bear witness to birth and death
Nursing is a calling.
Those that gravitate towards a career in nursing have an overarching desire to help others. Of course, there are many fields within the profession; at last count, nursing placement services quote up to 104 nursing specialties. Registered nurses are well paid; indeed, the job is practically recession proof. During the last recession of 2008-2009 many gravitated towards nursing from other careers, given the pay structure, profession job satisfaction and other factors. Above that, one can make a decent living while fulfilling altruistic aspirations, consider the following:
Nursing is the most trusted profession: Nurses have been at the top of Gallup’s annual honesty/ethics poll since 2001. 2019, the most recent survey states 84% of respondents rated nurses as very high or high when it comes to being honest and ethical. Doctors were second (67%) and pharmacists third (66%).
Nursing is a top of the rankings occupation: U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Best Jobs are ranked on their ability to offer a mix of positive qualities. These jobs pay well, are challenging, and offer room to advance and provide a satisfying work-life balance. Several nursing positions ranked in the top 25, including, nurse anesthetist (#5), nurse practitioner (#7), nurse midwife (#16), and registered nurse (#19).
Most registered nurses today enter practice with a baccalaureate degree offered by a four-year college or university or an associate degree offered by a community college.
Nursing has one of the fastest job growth rates: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 12% growth rate for registered nurses from 2018 to 2028—much higher than for other professions. Of the 3.8 Million nurses, roughly three quarters are registered nurses (RNs), and the remaining quarter are licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nurses comprise the largest segment of hospital staff, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.
Nurses are getting younger; A Rand Corporation/Vanderbilt/Dartmouth study showed a 62% increase in the number of 23-26-year olds who became RN’s between 2002 – 2009, a growth rate not seen in this age group since the 1970’s.
Let’s consider nursing on both ends of our human condition.
NEW LIFE: Labor & Delivery nurses are intimately involved in our lives at the very first moment we burst into the world and take our first breath. Indeed, they were present during that process and gave support to our mother’s in what could be described as a marathon, rather than a sprint (some would say differently depending on the circumstance and speed of labor). L&D is intense, joyful, fast paced, emotionally charged. L&D nursing not only involves support of the mother, but also others present who are assisting and witness to the miracle of life. Families never forget their delivery room nurses. There are days of sorrow and sadness. Likewise, those poignant moments are etched into the memories of these professionals.
Shifts are exhilarating, demand stamina, heightened communication skills, a cool head, empathy and kindness. Whereas L & D stands in the early morning sunlight of humanity, long term care and support of those coping with the ravages of age-related illness including dementia occupies the twilight.
THE LAST FURLONG: Fast forward to end of life and the nurses who care for our elders and bear witness to that solemn journey leading to our last breath.
Nursing practiced on the Dementia stage has been described as a marathon, not a sprint. Nursing in the long-term care setting requires stamina, empathy, specialized training, kindness, superior communication skills and the ability to coach and support other family members as they cope with the cognitive and physical decline of their loved one and witness the cruel, inexorably slow “long goodbye”.
Historically, long-term care has been pushed to the sidelines, operating in the shadows of nursing with little acknowledgment for the dedication demanded of a complex, multi-faceted field, and one that will require more nursing staff in a specialty already dealing with staff shortages, even as the population ages.
Right now, in the United States, there are 5.8 million people coping with dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Consider the sobering fact that 10,000 people a day reach the age of 65 in the United States with the Baby Boomer generation accounting for approximately 76 million people born between 1946-1964. The so-called Silver Tsunami bears down upon long term care facilities and the nursing profession by association. As Baby Boomers age, Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases are expected to triple – by some estimates 13.8 million people by 2050. Clearly long-term care will not be starved of folks requiring the assistance necessary at the end of life. While not all of us will ever experience childbirth, the inimitable words spoken by Benjamin Franklin reverberate “… but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Nursing continues to be an honored profession. Let’s ensure the geriatric specialties gain much deserved recognition in the public consciousness – for sure we shall all eventually meet such people on our own journey of life.