Reflecting on the words of the founder of modern nursing, Lara J. Spaller, BSN, RN, describes not only her responsibilities as a research nurse at the Cleveland Clinic, but also what she believes lies at the core of all nurses.
“It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm. What nursing has to do … is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.” Florence Nightingale, c. 1860
Almost two centuries have passed since Florence Nightingale spoke those words and yet their truthfulness still rings true today. When I started out in nursing twenty-five years ago, it was with that purpose in mind. I have always felt that at our core, we nurses are scientists with a heart. We take care of patients and families during some of the most frightening times in their lives. We are their advocates. As a research nurse, I take this responsibility with the utmost seriousness. It is my job to protect a patient while at the same time seek new and better ways to care for them and future patients. Every time I recruit a patient into one of our studies, I am always careful to follow the study protocol precisely, while at the same time making sure that what I am asking of this patient does not place them in a more vulnerable situation than he/she is already. It is no easy task but the rewards are great.
Research is the cornerstone for evidence-based practice. Without research, there would be little to no advancement in improving and providing quality patient care. As a research nurse, not only am I responsible for recruitment, but I am also charged with data collection, and the continued assessment of subjects through their involvement in a study. The painstaking time and resources needed for research are pivotal in achieving accurate results.
Florence Nightingale was a pioneer. She understood that compassion and science were the cornerstones for excellent patient care. As we prepare to celebrate the bicentennial of her birth, let us remember that at our core, we like her, are scientists with a heart.