New nursing with Theresa Brown
What is New Nursing? It’s an aspiration, a hope, an ideal for the future of nursing. Representative Lauren Underwood, newly elected to Congress from Illinois, embodies New Nursing. Florence Nightingale, believe it or not, also represents New Nursing. New Nursing also includes, well, me, writing opinion columns about nursing and health care for The New York Times and CNN.com.
If those examples sound too far-away from patient care, consider this example. I teach a clinical section to juniors at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. One of my students last semester had a patient who was ordered a vancomycin enema. The patient had a colostomy, and an antibiotic enema seemed the best way to reach a troublesome abscess in what was left of his large bowel. The enemas were scheduled three times a day for three days, and my student objected to the embarrassment and loss of dignity that this treatment plan would entail.
Upset, the student took the initiative to research the effectiveness of vancomycin enemas compared to taking vancomycin by mouth. The sources she consulted said the patient was unlikely to be better served by receiving vancomycin as an enema than as an ordinary pill. Discussing the enema order with the physician in this case was not my student’s responsibility, so we didn’t push the issue. However, the student’s work was excellent, and if she had been the patient’s actual nurse she would have talked over the antibiotic enema with the physician.
Her combination of compassion, solid research skills, and ability to speak up, embodied the best of New Nursing. New Nursing views speaking up as essential to the job and believes nurses will be listened to when we raise concerns. In New Nursing, MDs are colleagues and research is seen as fundamental to doing the job well. Above all, New Nursing knows how important nurses’ clinical observations and insights are to good patient care.
Outside the clinical realm, a New Nurse like Lauren Underwood combines nursing insight and advocacy in the effort to improve health care overall. Florence Nightingale is a New Nurse because she successfully combined science and compassion when she worked as a nurse during the Crimean War, and because she spent her later years arguing for and instituting better health care for soldiers and veterans.
I’ll be writing here every month or so about new nursing. Keep reading and join in. New Nursing details what we nurses can ask of ourselves, and in the increasingly complex and technical world of modern health care, makes clear what our patients need and most deserve from us.
Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, works as a clinical nurse in Pittsburgh. Her most recent book, The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives, was a New York Times Bestseller and is available everywhere books are sold.
Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, FAAN, is Clinical Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Her most recent book, The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives, was a New York Times bestseller.
She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and also writes for CNN.com. She has been interviewed on the NPR program “Fresh Air,” and has appeared on “Hardball,” and MSNBC live.
Brown writes and speaks about nursing, health care and end of life care. She has a PhD in English from the University of Chicago. Her kids inspired her to leave academia and pursue nursing. It is a career change she has never regretted.