It’s hard for me to believe I have been a nurse for over 30 years; however, in my heart, I have been a nurse much longer. Even as a little girl I knew I wanted to become a nurse. I grew up in a time where there were strong role model nurses on TV shows which fueled my conviction.
Nursing is an art and a science. The possibilities open to nurses are amazing! From the hospital, to the clinic, to the home, or the laboratory or the classroom, we make an impact on people’s lives every day. And in giving we get so much more back in return.
Like most new grads, my career started in the hospital. I worked on the medical surgical floors before gravitating to oncology which then merged with telemetry, offering me another skill set. Then, I moved to a relatively new bone marrow transplant unit which included adult and pediatric patients. After a move and a second child, I found a part-time job as an outpatient nurse for a drug and rehab center. Another important skill set was learned.
When I moved out to the country, which I lovingly called the middle of nowhere, I thought my nursing career was over. Little did I know I was about to find my niche.
Responding to an ad for a hospice nurse at a satellite branch of a large community-based hospice opened my opportunities to the full scope of nursing practice. The hospice model, which is holistic, person-centered and interdisciplinary, blew my mind. I wondered why all health care wasn’t built on this model? When I called a primary care physician about their patient, they wanted to know what I recommended. Wow! I quickly realized I needed to always be prepared and have current evidence to back up my recommendations. I also hoped the hospice model of care would move upstream in care delivery during my lifetime.
As a nurse leader, I am engaged in that very work today.
In hospice nursing I also honed the art of listening. Listening first is so very important to giving high quality care. While I have built a wealth of skills throughout my career, from bedside nursing, operating complex devices, tackling electronic documentation optimization, developing operational budgets and new programs, managing and leading teams, the single most important skill I have learned is listening.
Great nurses listen with an open heart, to the individual, their family, their co-workers, and their community. These nurses see a person, not a patient. Nurses dare to care with empathy, understanding this individual before them could be their loved one or themselves. Great nurses don’t assume, they listen, and because they do, they learn more than any algorithm or protocol can provide.
I am a nurse who believes in the value of technology. I look for ways to leverage technological advances in providing care to the seriously ill. But I also know that technology can never replace human caring. And human caring starts with active listening.
To all my fellow nurses, happy Nurses’ Week! Please continue to advance your skills and education because you make a difference in the lives of others every day. And never forget the great art of listening.
Lori Bishop, MHA, BSN, RN, CHPN
Vice President of Palliative & Advanced Care
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization