Nurses are some of the best of society, but are they also some of the most underappreciated?

Nursing is an exceptionally skilled profession. The qualifications required take years of study and clinical practice to reach the required standard, and this study may be continued throughout the nurse’s career. In addition, nursing requires many other qualities such as compassion, resilience, attention to detail, and organization to deliver the care that patients deserve.

In hospitals and other medical settings, nurses can be found in every department from maternity to end-of-life care and all the ailments and injuries in between. They are also fully involved in the research side of medicine, developing the next level of treatments to improve patients’ outcomes. And yet, throughout all this, there is often a sense that nurses are the unsung heroes of the medical profession, perhaps not getting the recognition they deserve.

Professional development

Many may assume that, once qualified, nurses have few opportunities for further professional development. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Nursing requires a lifetime of learning as new practices are developed, and there is a range of qualifications that can be achieved. The demands of nursing may indeed leave little time for the study further qualifications demand, but the education sector recognizes that fact.

An education resource that does appreciate the professional skills needed to be a nurse is developing ways to make further study easier. Wilkes University offers online courses led by expert practitioners that include clinical placements with the chance to take study all the way to PhD nursing in a way that fits around existing work and life commitments.

Read: Advanced Practice Career Options for Nurses

Second to doctors

Part of the underappreciation of nursing is that in a medical setting, they are often seen as second to the doctors. Patients and their families treat doctors as the authority and ignore the knowledge nurses possess, even though their involvement with the patient may be more consistent.

The attitude of many in society towards nursing rests on how nursing was in the past. The nursing profession emerged from the caring duties of women towards the sick, old and infirm. Away from the home setting, it moved onto the battlefield, but still few skills were required. Even as hospitals became more commonplace, the role of the nurses often seemed restricted to the emptying of bedpans or the giving of sponge baths.

Of course, nursing has come a long way since then in terms of both skills and responsibilities that see them play critical roles on the wards, in the community, and during surgery. However, it remains a female-dominated profession with misogynistic attitudes in society hampering its ability to see nursing as the skilled career it truly is. Unfortunately, this lack of respect also transfers into pay scales, meaning nursing lags behind many other graduate professions regarding both respect and financial reward.

Looking to the future

While society still has a way to go to fully give the nurses the respect they deserve, the situation is improving as more universities offer courses to aid the professional development of nurses and a more aware society starts to demand a change in attitude.

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