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My duty to provide care

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I was once asked if I would neglect a patient’s needs to protect my own health.

This was not a question that I took time to negotiate, I instinctively answered, “no.” To deny my patient the care that is necessary to improve their health, would mean that I was not fulfilling my responsibility as a care giver. As a future nurse, I understand that I will soon be a role model and a health care provider for all of my clients, regardless of their well-being.

This I believe – it is my duty to provide care for each patient. I have chosen nursing to be my future career because I have a desire to help everyone in need of medical attention. After discussing my opinion with my fellow nursing classmates, I was taken aback to find many of them, answered “yes” to the same question. I couldn’t help but wonder what caused them to answer in such a way that would neglect the person most important in our careers; the patient.

The concerns and reasons behind my classmates’ beliefs made me think more about my answer. I had to ask myself, would there ever be a reason for me to deny care of one of my patients? No. I feel that I would not carry out my role as a nurse if I refused a patient care. I have learned that in every circumstance involved in nurse-patient care, it is important to avoid personal harm as much as possible. I have also learned that the most important part of nursing is putting the patient’s needs first. Health care professionals need to be there for advocacy and health promotion. Then I developed a question of my own, if each nurse denied care, who is left with the responsibility of the patient? If each of us has the right to decide whether or not to provide care, what would happen if we all denied it?

I am well aware of diagnoses and treatments that may not foster safe environments; however, based on my beliefs, I feel that it is unethical for me to ignore a patient’s health when it is at risk. I am an individual who prioritizes the health and care of others above my own. I believe that is why I am destined to be a nurse.

As a future nurse, I believe I will serve as a role model to my patients and their families by providing them with the best nursing skills, regardless of their negative effects on me. I have chosen to become a supportive, trusting, care giver eager to improve the lives of each of patient to come.

This I believe – it is my duty to provide care for each patient.

“My Duty to Provide Care,” Copyright © 2008 by Heather Harris. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at www.thisibelieve.org, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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Based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, This I Believe® is an exciting national project that invites you to write about the core beliefs that guide your daily life. The series has enjoyed a four year run on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Visit the special "Scrubs Magazine Reader Submission Form" on the This I Believe website to contribute your own essay. Essays by Scrubs Magazine readers could be featured on both This I Believe and on Scrubs Magazine!
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2 Responses to My duty to provide care

  1. Peter

    Ahhhh…. beauty of a new nurse.. wrapped in a Don Quiote sense of dementia and martyrdom. Its so easy to say words of valor when one is not in the line of fire. Your delirium and dreamer status is not only foolish but selfish.. Yes, selfish, since you put yourself, and your co workers as well as your family at risk to save a patient that most likely you will never save. Since when did the term Nurse become synonymous with idiot? Not in my life time… Does that make me a bad nurse? Not on your life. Its a different philosophy, perhaps centered on reality and a strong sense of self preservation and health. People die. Get over it, it happens. The best thing you can do as a Nurse is to be professional, listen, do your work well and thoroughly with kindness and compassion. Neglecting your own safety and health is ignorant and idiotic. Its a plague on the nursing profession, and perhaps why Nurses are more than most professions, some of the most dysfunctional people.. Better rethink your attitude before you have to…

  2. sarah m.

    I have to start by saying that I appreciate your feelings, as I am a nursing student as well. You obviously care deeply about your patients, and I would love to have someone with your attitude as my or my family member’s nurse.

    However, your health is important as well, as your care of your patients will be affected if you become injured or ill. I would caution you against feeling that it is your duty to sacrifice yourself to take care of your patient. You have to protect your own health as well as your patient’s, or you’ll eventually become a patient yourself.

    I think the question itself is a poor one – it implies that you’ll have to choose health and safety for either your patient or yourself. Yes, it is our duty to provide good, thorough, competent, compassionate care to our patients, but something is wrong if we’re having to sacrifice ourselves to do it.