Written by Colleen Kienbaum, RN, BSN
There is so much about nursing school I simply don’t remember. Looking back, it all feels like a blur of textbooks, coffee stains, and late nights leaving the library once the cleaning crew arrived. While much of it feels like a memory from the past, the nursing process is the one thing that was burned into me and all my fellow baby nurses in those early days of nursing school.
According to the American Nurses Association, the nursing process is the “essential core of practice for the registered nurse to deliver holistic, patient-focused care.”
The Five Steps of the Nursing Process:
My instructors introduced the nursing process on day one and made it a central theme in their final motivational speech right before our pinning ceremony. My nursing school friends and I would joke about the frequency our instructors would bring up this topic. What I didn’t yet realize is just how powerful the nursing process is as a multi-use tool for a nurse heading to the frontlines of patient care.
Finding Common Ground
The ultimate commonality between all nurses, regardless of their specialty, is the nursing process. Nurses are advocates, educators, and coaches for patients and their families. At the very center of everything we do is holistic care of the patient; focusing not just on medical needs, but also emotional and spiritual needs to create a healing process unique to the individual in front of us.
This is a huge badge of honor and also a responsibility we must carry as nurses. Our ability to find common ground is the reason why 2021 marked the 20th consecutive year that nursing was ranked the most trusted profession in the Gallup poll. The nursing process can be credited with laying the foundation for nurses to provide compassionate care to the most vulnerable.
The People-Focused Big Picture
What if the nursing process was even bigger than that? If you exchange the word patient-focused for people-focused, think about what that could mean for service and industry as a whole. Nurses possess this amazing ability to connect with people. In almost all industries, people matter. Nurses understand this concept and focus on people daily, no matter where or how we choose to practice.
In a world so driven by metrics, data, and technology, sometimes the human touch gets lost in the shuffle. Instructors will often tout how versatile nursing is but it’s more than just changing departments or moving to a different hospital. Nursing provides foundational tools that can benefit a whole host of industries and allows nurses to utilize their innate skills to benefit their communities, which can have far-reaching effects.
Today, my fellow nurses are branching out more and more from clinical roles, and why not? They possess valuable skills that easily translate to adjacent fields such as critical thinking, time management, and people-centered holistic care that is at the core of what we do every day. Nurses can take the nursing process they’re so used to abiding by and channel that towards anything. It might be a hobby, new exercise regimen, or even a career change.
You may find that broadly applying the nursing process brings opportunities beyond your wildest imagination because you hold the key to success: showing people that they matter. You might be looking to carve out more time for your own well-being between shifts. It might be a nurse who has a passion for politics that takes the leap to run for city council and effect change. It might be a nurse who loves bedside care but due to family circumstances, is looking for a change of pace. Whatever route you take in your journey I challenge you to not sell yourself short. You have the tenacity and fortitude to be an agent for change because this world needs your experiences and your ability to connect with people.
*Cough* Those Instructors Were Right
Driving home from a difficult shift recently, I was reflecting on my journey putting on medical scrubs for all these years and realized that my instructors were right. The nursing process has given me tools that I’ve translated, sometimes without even realizing, into other areas of my life and it has enriched all of them. I push myself a little harder at the gym these days, have found resilience in motherhood, and begun my own journey as a nurse entrepreneur because of the fortitude given to me by the nursing process.
Nursing is a calling reserved for very strong, special people. It’s hard work that requires grit and determination (one might call it Moxie), and it can change lives. Whether at the bedside and patient-focused, as a volunteer, or as a nurse entrepreneur, know that what you do is empowering. People will respond in meaningful ways because you have the ability to show them they matter.
American Nurses Association. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/what-is-nursing/the-nursing-process/
About the Author
Colleen Kienbaum, RN, BSN, has worked in several nursing specialties including emergency medicine, cardiac care and perioperative services for the past eight years. Currently, she holds CPAN and CAPA certifications and enjoys the dynamic role nurses play in today's healthcare. Colleen is also a military spouse and mother who enjoys traveling and exploring new places with her family.