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"When You Step Into The Room You Are Family": The Life Of An NC Nurse

Nurse checking woman's blood pressure while family member watches
Dudley's Home Health


With days full of physical assessments, patient advocacy, connecting with patients' families, and communicating with physicians, a nurse’s work is never done. And when a hospital is understaffed or under-resourced, nurses take on more patients and extra shifts. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with three North Carolina nurses about the challenges of nursing and the recognition of National Nurses Week: Ann King, nurse practitioner at Wayne Memorial Hospital and professor at East Carolina University's School of Nursing; Leslie Sharpe, nurse practitioner at Sylvan Community Health Center in Snow Camp, NC; and Erica Saunders, nurse at the UNC Physicians Network and the Triangle Regional Director for the North Carolina Nurses Association.

A nurse's assessment goes beyond checking the tests and reading the chart. "Oftentimes, you can take the patient's blood pressure. You can draw labs. You can do all of those things. Sometimes it can give you a picture of what is going on with the patient, but sometimes they don't give the picture," says Erica Saunders. "And you have an intuition:  something is not right with the patient." Her intuition about a patient whose tests were clear were right; he was bleeding internally. 

'As nurses, we are forced to speak the truth in as honest and compassionate a way as we can.' - Leslie Sharpe, Nurse Practitioner

Providing information to a dying patient's family can be challenging. "You give the best information you have at that moment," says nurse practitioner Leslie Sharpe.

Communicating is even more difficult when it is a matter of life and death. A patient's wife asked me, "Why won't he die?" But she was saying to him daily, "I can't make it without you." I told her that maybe he needed to hear that she would be ok.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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