Ever wondered how your required college composition courses will benefit you once you’re in the “real world”? Ever wondered how important reading and writing skills are to visual designers, nurses, or creative directors at ad firms? I’ve started this series, Real Talk, to give professionals in a variety of industries a chance to share why reading and writing are so critical to what they do.
Today, we’re profiling Natalie Pring, a Charge Nurse at a large Southern California Children’s Hospital, who tells us all about how vital reading and writing are to the people checking your vitals.
Describe your current job.
I am a day shift Charge Nurse on the Medical floor of a large Children’s Hospital. Each shift is 12.5 hours. During my shift I am responsible for the care and safety of up to 48 children, up to 12 Registered Nurses, 4 Nurse Assistants, and ancillary staff. Throughout the day I deal with staffing my unit and I plan staffing and assignments for the night shift.
I deal with family issues or complaints, security issues, and anything else that may come up during the day. I check in with each family, and act as a resource to my staff for questions, extra help, and make sure everyone gets their required breaks covered. I work closely with the hospital nursing supervisor, my unit manager and the other charge nurses in the hospital.
Outside of my clinical responsibilities, I am the designated Charge Nurse mentor for a group of 15 staff. As a mentor I regularly check in, work on goals, review performance and help further the careers of my group members. We meet quarterly one on one, and I am responsible for writing their annual performance evaluations.
What kind of reading and writing do you do on an everyday basis?
Each day I spend a good amount of time reading doctors’ notes. There are patient summaries, plans of care, and nursing updates going on throughout the patient’s stay. This reading is mostly in the form of quick summaries, but is the bulk of the reading I do most often.
When working with families, we do a lot of teaching. We need to teach about medications, what they are, how they work, and how to give them. It would be impossible to have all of this information memorized, so we have a database of medication information to use. I will search a new medication or procedure, read all the information, and relay it to the family. It is often written for medical professionals so I need to comprehend the information, but also process it and present it in a way that the family can understand. Research has shown that medical education should be presented at a 5th grade reading level to meet the educational level of the majority of learners.
Other than nursing summaries and quick clinical notes in patients’ charts, my writing consists of letters of recommendation to help my staff advance to new positions or levels in the hospital. These need to be in the correct format and be professional to best represent my coworkers. Occasionally I also collect information and compile into either a report or presentation for committee meetings. I will gather information from safety concerns or parent comments and compile them into a concise format to present to staff.
What kinds of reading and writing skills are key to your job/your field?
My job requires us to read medical reports, psychology reports, police reports, social work reports, and probably a few more reports I’m forgetting. We read medication information, hospital policies, and procedure instructions.
Why are these skills important to being successful in your work?
Bedside nurses are constantly writing clinical notes and summaries of their patients’ status and care. The writing needs to be clear, concise, thorough, and grammatically correct as patient charts are used as evidence in any legal matters. Nurses are expected to explain and defend any charting done under their name. Legal matters aside, charting is so important as care is handed off between nurses and doctors. Clear documentation communicates life-saving information between members of the care team. The phrase that is burned into your brain in nursing school and throughout your career is “If it’s not charted, it’s not done.”
What advice do you have for students, particularly college students in first- and second-year writing courses?
If you are interested in going to nursing school, writing classes are very important before you get there. Nurses are all about research. Evidence-based practice is the basis of nursing. Nursing school is full of research, collection of data, and writing reports. While you may not go into nursing research later in your career, there are many opportunities to write papers, letters and educational materials.
Being able to communicate clearly, and cater your writing to your audience is always important no matter what job you have. It still surprises and disheartens me to read other adult writing and see that basic structure and grammar are not universal. Take advantage of early writing courses to master these concepts so you can present yourself professionally later on, no matter then subject matter.