Is the Nursing Profession an Art or Science?

The profession of nursing, like most other professions, includes two distinct facets, like the sides of a coin. On one hand, you have the pure science of the job – the dirty work, the knowledge, the mechanics and logistics. On the other hand, you have the art – the beauty of taking care of others and the nuance of attending to the human species. But what exactly is the difference?

Nursing – The Science

If you are a nurse, science is your forte. You’ve studied human anatomy and learned the ins and outs of diseases, disorders, and disabilities. You are acutely aware of the task at hand and what is required of you. But even more than the actual nursing side of things, you must also be aware of new policies and procedures at your hospital or clinic. Even something as simple-seeming as paperwork needs to be completed with a scientific mind and an attention to detail.

As new machinery and equipment are released, nurses need to ensure that they are keeping up with training and information. After all, the health industry is deeply connected to the world of ever-changing technology, so keeping up with the changing times is necessary to excel in the field. Even medications are constantly being revised and updated, and nurses need to know how they will affect their patients.

Essentially, a good nurse needs to have a scientific mind and a professional approach to their job. Having the right knowledge and knowing how to apply it is absolutely crucial in the nursing field.

Nursing – The Art

A good nurse will know a lot – from how to draw blood to the symptoms of the mumps, to what medications may interact poorly with each other. However, becoming a great nurse is more than just having this information in their head. Indeed, to access the “art” of nursing, a person must bridge their knowledge with know-how.

Like any profession, simply knowing information doesn’t mean much. Most professions require that theory be married with practice, and in nursing, this means that nurses must use their knowledge to help patients with a finesse that puts the patients at ease.

Perhaps one of the aspects of nursing that most requires an artistic touch is not in knowing what to do, but in knowing how to do it. As a nurse, you will face many patients every day that are uncomfortable, scared, anxious, or in pain. You’ll also deal with family members or friends that are suffering because of the patient’s ills. Knowing the best way to draw blood for a test will do no good if the patient is scared of needles and resistant to your efforts. You being the best nurse in the hospital may not be as reassuring to the patient as you might think.

In this case, the artistry of nursing – the ability to calm and truly help patients – is a necessity. Being able to quell the nerves of your patients and help them relax enough so that you can finish your tasks is where the art of nursing comes in. Compassion and empathy with an anxious patient will do more good to heal them than a gruff hand that is in a rush to get the job done. For example, many patients are nervous before going into surgery. As a nurse, you may prepare several patients a day and see all of them come out alright. For you, this is normal, routine. For the patient, however, this is something scary, even terrifying. Taking the time to talk to them and address their fears may take a few extra minutes, but the patient will be much more ready to go into surgery and will remember you for your kindness and empathy.

Another aspect of nursing being an art is in the distinct collaborative work that needs to be accomplished. Nurses are generally part of a team, and they must work as such. Knowing how to work well with other nurses, doctors, even orderlies is an art that many non-nurses may not completely understand. The work in a hospital or clinic is like a relay race that requires the participation of all team members to achieve success. A good nurse, one who is effective, valuable, and successful, is able to cooperate with others for the greater good – the health of the patient. They will put their own pride and desire for personal success behind the drive to heal.

Final Thoughts

Being a good nurse is easy – follow the science you’ve learned and have the knowledge you need to perform certain tests and procedures. But being a great nurse means learning the art of the human touch, of empathy, of teamwork. It means understanding that a patient’s emotional or mental turmoil is often comparable to their physical turmoil.

And some days you’ll find that the art is more important than the science.

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