Beyond the Bedside: Why Nurses Are Never Truly Off Duty


You have probably experienced the following multiple times in your career.  A family member or friend asks you to take a look at a growth they are concerned about.  Perhaps a loved one was recently prescribed a new medication?  While it is beyond our scope of practice to diagnose, it is not beyond our scope of practice to suggest that our friend or family member have that growth looked at, what kinds of tests to anticipate, and what kinds of questions to ask the doctor.  It is not beyond our scope of practice to check that family member’s new drug against any other prescribed medications to be sure there is no risk of adverse drug interaction.  Being a nurse follows us far beyond a twelve-hour shift.  Our patients are those we are assigned as well as strangers on the bus, our best friends, our children, or our parents.  The following are just a few reasons why while a nurse may have clocked out, he or she is never truly off duty.


Do you assess every individual you encounter in a public place?  If you are anything like me, you size up every customer in the grocery store or passenger when boarding a plane.  Perhaps you keep a close eye on the slow moving lady on the bus who appears out of breath?  The public counts on us to be its eyes.  How many of you were the first to recognize a stranger in distress?


Our listening skills are honed in many ways from day one in our training.  Nurses listen. We listen to sounds of the body and words of our patients.  Our ears are trained to recognize everything from a heart murmur or wheezing to signs of depression or risk for suicide.  We are looking for any clues in what information we are being given that would indicate further investigation is needed.


As part of our profession, our education is ongoing.  As treatment evolves, so does our skill set and experience.  While our knowledge and experience may belong to a specialty, we are still rooted in the foundation of our training.  We know enough to recommend what kinds of questions a loved one should ask a doctor when being seen.


A nurse is prepared both on and off duty.  We are prepared for the questions.  We are prepared to give advice and references.  We are prepared to administer any life saving care in any situation.  Preparation becomes second nature.

As part of one of the most trusted professions, nurses are a frequent sought out resource for public health information.  As such, friends, family, and complete strangers will confide in us.  It is why we are never truly off duty.  It is part of what makes being a nurse such an honor.


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