Penn Highlands Elk Honors Nurses

May 08, 2015


Being a Nurse

By Mary Ellen Smith, Chief Nursing Officer, Penn Highlands Elk

The definition of a nurse is a person formally educated and trained in the care of the sick or infirm.  While this does define the core of what a nurse does, there is much more involved for those individuals who answer the call to be a nurse. 

Since Florence Nightingale first revealed the terrible nursing care provided for soldiers in the Crimean War, nurses have been advocates for their patients.   It was here that modern-day nursing finds its roots. At those times when humanity is at its worse, sick, injured, traumatized and afflicted, nurses have stepped forward to provide care and be a voice for their patient when their voice needs heard the most.

Nurses are also agents of change.  Healthcare is an ever-changing entity.  Science advances, new illnesses emerge, new regulations are enacted-for all of these, there must be an adjustment, a new training, a new point of view.  The old adage “The only thing that is constant is change” is never more true than in healthcare.  Nurses are at the fulcrum of this change and adapt so the needs of the patient are always first and foremost and met with competence.  These changes are large and small and, through them all, the nurse must learn and adapt and become the expert.  Being an agent of change requires a lot of knowledge.

Nurses are listeners who hear the patient’s voice.  In modern medicine, with all of its bells and whistles, the patient’s voice is still the best source for information.  No one knows your body better than you yourself.  Listening to the patient is, arguably, the single-most important job a nurse can do.  Many nurses can tell you stories of labs that were normal, x-rays that were clear, physical exams which were unremarkable; yet a  patient’s life is saved simply by a nurse listening when he said “something just doesn’t feel right”.  They know.  

And beyond the physical, the stress illness places on patients and their families can be tremendous. Someone standing by a patient’s bed at 2 a.m. and quietly listening while the woes and worries are pouring out can be just as vital to health as the medicine and treatments scheduled for the next day.

At the heart of it, nurses are caregivers.  What kind of care?  Whatever the patient needs.  Whether it’s medicine, a cool pillow, IV fluids, dressing changes, encouragement to eat, help turning over, an arm to hold for a walk, a keen eye or a sharp mind, nurses are there for their patients. 

This is National Nurses Week.  At Penn Highlands Elk, we celebrate our nurses and thank them for their devotion and care for our patients.  Each one dedicates their effort and talents in remarkable ways every day and they are appreciated.