May is a time to celebrate the work of neuroscience nurses across the country. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses suggests several ways to highlight the work neuroscience nurses do with Neuroscience Nurses Week, but one of the best things is to find out what makes a neuroscience nurse love the job so much.
Shirley Ansari, BSN, RN, CNRN, and a nurse in The Johns Hopkins Hospital Neuroscience Acute Care Unit, says her journey to becoming a neuroscience nurse was not planned, but has given her professional challenges and personal satisfaction for her entire career.
“I became a registered nurse (RN) in 1984 and finished my nursing training in Mumbai, India,” Ansari says. “As a new RN, I was assigned to the neuroscience unit because the unit was short-staffed at the time. At the time, I had a limited knowledge of how to take care of neurological and neurosurgical patients.”
As a new nurse, Ansari says neuroscience nursing was challenging simply because the patients in her care had complex needs and were all quite varied. The pace was fast and care situations were changing constantly.
“Nevertheless,” she says, “with the help of senior nurses and their expertise, I was able to learn a lot and found it very motivating to deal with patients who suffered from a wide variety of brain and nervous system disorders.”
Because neuroscience nurses work with patients who are often in acute situations, they have to be highly resourceful both technically and emotionally. “As a neuroscience nurse, one should have the capability to deal with critical situations by being empathetic towards the patient as well as being simultaneously alert and attentive to the details,” Ansari says.
Because of their patients’ care needs, neuroscience nurses have to walk a fine line between motivating patients to do the work they might need to do and understanding what limitations they have at that moment. “My approach always involves a high level of calm and patience as many of these patients are not able to function normally due to their impaired cognitive function,” says Ansari.
The complex conditions and the rapidly changing environment means neuroscience nurses have to be ready to constantly take in new information and new developments but remain focused and steady. They will use all their nursing skills and develop strong communications skills that will work effectively within a team in a high pressure environment.
When thinking about advice to offer nurses considering this branch of nursing, she says well-rounded capabilities are essential. “They should have a high level of understanding to grasp what is happening with their patients and should be able to assess quickly and effectively in order to administer the proper type of care,” she says. “They should be able to communicate and delegate efficiently in order to deal with emergent situations. Lastly, they should be willing to work in a high stress situation by maintaining proficiency and composure.”
For Ansari, a career in neuroscience nursing brings many benefits, especially when she can see the progress of patients in her care. “Being able to facilitate and witness a patient’s recovery from initial treatment and rehab to having a more fruitful quality of life with their families is extremely rewarding,” she says.
As with many areas of nursing, Ansari says the constant change keeps her job fresh every day. “To this day, [the diverse work] is one of primary aspects of neuroscience nursing that I truly enjoy and find completely gratifying,” Ansari says. “The ability to learn something new amidst changing and challenging situations keeps me engaged, interested, and motivated in my work every single day.”
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