Donna Cardillo: The Inspiration Nurse (PRNewsFoto/Donna Cardillo)

As we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), it’s a good time to talk about the expanding role nurses play and will play in the future as health care evolves to meet the changing demographics and health-care needs of the population.
While many people think of nurses as “assistants” to the physician, they are actually equal partners in health care, each with a separate and unique yet vital role. One is not an elevated version of the other. Nurses work to keep you healthy and well, helping you to heal when necessary, providing you comfort and care, supporting you at the end of your life, and bringing new life into the world.
Here are 11 ways and places that nurses work for you and with you:
1. Nurses are your primary caregivers while in the hospital, not your physician. It is the nurse who is coordinating, managing and delivering patient care. They also are leading the care team on hospital units.
2. Nurses are your 24/7 frontline caregivers. They are observing and evaluating your care and condition on a minute-to-minute basis watching for any subtle changes in conditions. They initiate life-saving measures as needed, make health and care decisions and expertly minister to patient needs.
3. Nurses are the primary health-care advocates. Since nurses are overseeing and coordinating your care, they are often the first ones to notice an error, an omission or a discrepancy. Likewise, if there is something you are concerned or confused about, the RN in charge of your care can help you. We consult and confer with all care providers, make recommendations, and question others’ treatment plans when necessary. It is our goal to make you feel – and be – safe and cared for.
4. Many nurses are certified in their specialty giving them additional expert knowledge and skill.
5. Nurses help you navigate your way through a complex and often confusing health-care system. This is particularly important if you received a diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness.
6. It’s important to remember that nurses don’t just work in hospitals or with sick people. They are in the community in nurse-led clinics, in the public health sector, in schools, in wellness centers, hospice, home care, and in business and industry.
7. When you go to a hospital, you may have surgery, tests and procedures, but you are there for nursing care. And if you want to know which hospitals/facilities have the best nursing care, just ask a nurse in the community.
8. If you’re looking for the best physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives, ask a nurse. Physicians don’t work with all of these primary care providers, but nurses do, so they may know a good fit for your needs.
9. Many nurses are self-employed and provide services independently such as wellness coaching, weight management, massage therapy, mindfulness-based stress management, nutritional counseling, lactation consultants, well-baby care coaches and more.
10. Nurses also work doing health research, setting health-care policy, running not-for-profit and government health agencies, as health-care facility administrators, and managing technology and patient care data.
11. Advanced practice nurses such as Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Nurse Midwives, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists will be providing an increasingly larger share of primary care services that were once provided exclusively by physicians.
In any setting, registered nurses are your partners in health and in health care. Celebrate nurses the week of May 6 to the 12th as we celebrate National Nurses Week.
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) of travels the world helping women and healthcare professionals to live fearlessly in career and life and to reach their full potential. She does that as a keynote speaker, columnist, author, and cut-up. Donna is an expert blogger at and the author of three books, with the 4th on its way.