The Importance of Nurses

by Dr Nick

Celebrating Nurses Week

Nursing – A Caring Profession

National Nurses Week begins on May 6th and ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12th. An opportunity to celebrate the incredible group of professionals who deliver so much compassion and care in the healthcare system. In my time as a practicing doctor I was blessed by so many great friends who helped me along my path and played a critical role in the care of patients and oftentimes helping me along the way as I fought debilitating tiredness and realized that the day I received my medical degree was only the first day in a very long journey of learning.

Nurses – A Caring Profession

One of my fondest memories was the day I was on call over a weekend. One of the patients I was covering had recently had a baby and was struggling to get any rest as the baby was unsettled in the noisy hospital environment. I checked in on her during my morning ward rounds and while talking to her took the baby who took an instant attraction to me and seemed to calm. When I finished with the mother I suggested I look after him for an hour or so while she got some much-needed rest – you could see the relief in her eyes as she agreed. I proceeded to do my ward rounds with my new young friend hitched to my waist. We had a blast – every ward we walked on to the nurses were so excited to see my new friend and in a typical demonstration of care and compassion were competing for who would take care of my charge while I reviewed the patients in my ward rounds, always disappointed to hand him back to me as moved on to the next and.

The Importance of Nurses

OxfordTextbookofMedicine Page 1


If I was to capture the importance of nurses I would cite the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, now in its 10th Edition. Although mine is the original edition published in 1985 and was known as the House Officer Guide (that’s a junior resident)


It includes this remarkably accurate and honest guidance on how to pass a Nasogastric Tube (that’s the clear plastic tube inserted into a patients nose to allow direct access to the stomach both for removal and insertion of fluid into patients)



Critical Guidance for Doctors on Passing a Nasogastric Tube

The specific guidance in my book is pictured below


OxfordTextbookofMedicine Passing an NG Tube

How to pass them (Nasogastric Tubes):

Nurses are the experts and will ask you (who may have never passed one before) to do so only when they encounter difficulties. Proceed as follows:

Step 1: Don a Plastic Apron

Step 2: Observe the nurse having one more attempt. This will give you a rough idea of how it is done – she may even succeed

Step 3: Tell the patient what you want to do. Let him be in control……

The brutal reality of newly minted doctors was their inexperience that was dependent on wise and experienced nurses who surrounded them and would provide the help to navigate these challenging situations where the expectation was for the doctor to be the expert. It was both refreshing and important that a well-respected book featured this guidance as it helped young doctors capitalize on the vast breadth of experience and for some it was a notification that while they might think they might not need help – inevitable medicine and healthcare is a team sport best played cooperatively as I shared in Population Health is a Team Sport


A Family of Nurses


Nursing in the Family

Its hard to explain – but given I was lucky to marry a nurse, midwife, and health visitor I’ve seen this same caring nurturing behavior every single day of my life, not just to our family but to everyone around our family orbit and dates back at least another generation with my mother in law:

So this week, raise a glass to Nurses and celebrate the work of the profession with the highest ranking of trust and ethics


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