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Why every nurse needs to ask ‘Why?’


iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

If you asked a fellow nurse to describe his or her job or responsibilities, what do you think he or she would say?

I’m willing to bet many would mention patient advocacy, plan of care, health care education, compassion, critical thinking and, of course, saving lives. We are educated and trained to care for our patients, which is an all-encompassing umbrella term that includes virtually every aspect of our patients’ care.

I personally think nurses are the gatekeepers of our patient’s health, wellness and recovery. Yet I don’t think many “get” what we nurses really do and have only a vague understanding of how far our responsibilities really do reach.

When I was finishing my diploma program nursing education many years ago, I had a nursing instructor who was wise beyond her years. When were finishing one of our last clinical rotations, she asked us this very question: “As a Registered Nurse, what is your job?”

Of course, as nursing students, we figured this was just another test and blindly gave the answers listed above. This particular instructor took great pride in giving her answer, which resonated with me then and still follows me to this day as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.

She said proudly, “Your job as a nurse is to constantly and repeatedly ask the question, ‘WHY?’”

Her answer didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me back then, but has continually proven to be more true each day I take another step in my career.

Ask why. Why are you doing or not doing something else? Why is your patient recovery progressing in this way and not that way? Why did the physician order this? Why is this happening? Why is this not happening?

Now, I didn’t say question someone’s intent, nor did I say question someone’s ability. I said ask why.

Ask it so you have an intricate understanding. It’s our job as the gatekeepers to have that intricate understanding of all the processes that surround our patients and how it affects their care.

The great thing about asking why? It leads to more questions. You then begin to research and reveal more of the who, what, how and when of your patient’s care.

Which will provide you with more information to better care for your patient, which in turn gives your patient the very best care possible and optimizes just about every outcome you are working toward.

We always will be required to ask the question why. You ask it proactively to be preventive or retrospectively to ascertain what went wrong…it’s your choice.

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