By Melinda Diaz, RN, BS, CHPN, LHRM, CHPCA
As you step into the next phase of your life and begin your career as a registered nurse, I want to share some of the things I have learned during my 33 years as an RN.
Always follow policy. Policies are there for your protection and the protection of your patients.
Never stop learning. There are new drugs, new procedures and new equipment emerging every day. You are a lifelong learner now that you are a nurse.
Always treat your license like gold. You worked hard for it, and there are rules you must follow to keep your license clear and active.
Always be accurate in your documentation. Write what you did and when you did it. If that medical record is brought into question by internal auditors or a court of law, you can rest easy knowing your documentation is valid.
If you are ever uncertain, stop and ask. Better to ask than to make a mistake that could have been avoided.
If you do make a mistake (and you will), always be truthful and learn from it.
Always help out colleagues. You work best as a team and you never know when your day will be crazy and you will need their help.
Always listen to your patients and families. If they tell you that grandma takes two yellow pills in the morning, check it out. After all, they have been caring for her for longer than you have.
Don’t leave tasks undone at the end of your shift. Your colleagues will appreciate
Try to see the humor in life every day. Sadness, illness and death are all around us, but keep a smile on your face. It may be the only smile the patient and family see all day.
Be grateful for the “thank yous” from your patients and families, and don’t take their complaints personally.
Patients will yell at you. Families will yell at you. Patients are scared and they have this big ball of fear that they don’t know what to do with, so they throw it at you. Try to deal with it with grace and remember that they are trying their best. Families are scared too, and tired and hungry. Be kind. You have a moral, ethical and spiritual obligation to care for them to the best of your ability.
There will be days that you are tired, upset and understaffed. That is not your patient’s fault. Over the years, I have been physically assaulted by patients and their family members. But every day of my career, I remember that they are scared and hurting, and that I am duty bound to assist in any way I can.
Through it all, I tried to never forget my purpose, and I challenge you to do the same. I am so proud of you and I am excited to watch where your career will take you.
May God bless and guide your hands as you care for the patients entrusted to you.
Melinda Diaz, RN, BS, CHPN, LHRM, CHPCA, is senior director of operations for Catholic Hospice and Catholic Palliative Care Services, Miami Lakes, Fla.
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