Health care has been identified as Canadians' number one public priority - and nurses play a central role in delivering health care.
Nurses advocate for health promotion, educate patients and the public on the prevention of illness and injury, provide care and assist in cure, participate in rehabilitation, and provide support. No other health care professional has such a broad and far-reaching role.
Nurses help families learn to become healthy by helping them understand the range of emotional, physical, mental and cultural experiences they encounter during health and illness. Nurses help people and their families cope with illness, deal with it, and if necessary live with it, so that other parts of their lives can continue.
Nurses do more than care for individuals. They have always have been at the forefront of change in health care and public health.
Nurses innovate. Florence Nightingale, regarded as the founder of modern nursing, is remembered as "the lady with the lamp" - yet she also collected data to prove that the main cause, by far, of fatalities in the Crimean War was not enemy fire, but infections attributed to improper sanitation. She was a pioneering statistician, probably the first person in history to use graphs and charts to persuade politicians to act. Today's university-trained nurses learn to trust their own first-hand observations to generate important research leads on significant topics.
Nurses provide ongoing assessment of people's health. Their round-the-clock presence, observation skills, and vigilance allow doctors to make better diagnoses and propose better treatments. Many lives have been saved because an attentive nurse picked upon early warning signs of an upcoming crisis like cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.