Care is Key
There have recently been criticisms of an overly specialized nursing workforce, At one time, the hospital nurse would have had quite a holistic role in patient care, ranging from bed-changing and temperature taking, to administering medicines and taking samples. There was always a hierarchy within the ward, but there would be a sense that a nurse was basically there to provide comfort and physical care to the patients. For example, the cleanliness of the ward was the business of the nursing supervisors, sisters or matrons, who would have ultimate responsibility for the nursing care within the ward.
The increasing technical demands of the job, together with the long academic training, may have removed the nurse from the direct and responsible caring role which he or she once had, and this is a development which deserves examination. There have been instances recently in the UK, of very basic caring functions being overlooked in the nursing care of the elderly. If even the fundamentals like making sure the patients are able to eat are not there, then the healing psychological effect of feeling well-cared for, which can hasten a return to health, will certainly also be absent.
There is no reason why a patient cannot have that feeling when being looked after by a team of highly skilled specialists. An advanced level of nurse training is an excellent thing for patients. Indeed there is a positive relationship between good clinical outcomes and a high proportion of fully qualified nursing staff. However, when a team is specialized, there can be a feeling that care is fragmented, so that the patient is not sure who to go to for help in any particular situation, and may feel rather lost. To counter that, it is important that all the nurses involved in a patient's care introduce themselves in a friendly and professional way, and basically make the patient feel welcome on the ward, which will actually be their home for however long it takes for them to be fit for discharge.
I would argue that the personal qualities of the nurse (which of course can and must be enhanced by support, training and proper systems of working), are as important as technical competence.