Monday, March 15, 2021

Nurses Leaning Into Uncertainty

Throughout history, nurses have provided care to those in need despite the cultural circumstances or political scenarios at hand. Nursing care, like medicine, is a necessary service that simply needs to be provided in a society at all times. No matter that bullets are flying, elections are being disputed, or a pandemic is raging, nurses are there with their patients even as uncertainty rules the day.

Nurses Showing Up

If a nurse chooses to be dispatched on a medical mission to Syria, she knows that she is putting her life on the line to reach the people who need her most under very dire circumstances. 

Nurses do what they do for a variety of reasons, and the fact is that they continue to show up day after day. This is most likely born of a compelling desire to be of service and to fulfill the duties they’ve been trained to perform.

Nurses show up, even when uncertainty is the only thing we know to be true.

Healthcare Under Fire

The current healthcare climate in the United States is tenuous at best. With powerful political rancor, a vast cultural divide, the impact of the worst pandemic in over a century, and enormous economic disparities in urban, suburban, and rural areas, most healthcare consumers feel at a loss about the future of their care. The Biden Administration is pushing for expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, but we know that many Americans are likely to be left out in the cold even if those moves are successful. For example, with the worst maternal outcomes in the developed world, the United States has a lot to make up for and overcome. 

In such times, nurses remain the backbone and lifeblood of the healthcare delivery system. And since nurses spend more time with patients than other providers, we are also privy to more of their stories, anxieties, and concerns. While we sit with patients, they spill their guts about the economic stressors keeping them awake at night, but once the doctor walks in the room, they may feel less inclined to complain to an authority figure who more fully represents the medical establishment.

The future of healthcare is unwritten, and the perpetually shifting sands of the political landscape offer little solace to those who desire a modicum of stability when it comes to where and how their care will be provided and paid for. In some ways, it is the worst of times, and healthcare consumers are bracing for all eventualities. Nurses bear witness to this ocean of tremulous worry.

A Holistic Nursing Assessment

Some doctors may be attuned to the socioeconomic challenges facing their patients, but nursing education – especially at the baccalaureate and graduate level -- generally touches on such issues in greater depth than the average medical school experience, to the best of my knowledge.

Nurses tend to assess patients in a more holistic manner than most medical providers, especially if the nurse has been steeped in nursing theory imbued with the importance of concepts such as the biopsychosocial view of the human experience.

Taking into account the totality of patients’ lives is crucial, and nurses are the health professionals who can most easily elicit such information.

Nurses Leaning In

In times of such great uncertainty, it is more paramount than ever for nurses to lean in, listen deeply, ask powerful questions, offer reassurance, and provide powerful advocacy for patients from all walks of life. Age, race, and income are not viable factors in determining who may or may not be worried about the future of their healthcare. Nurses must assess everyone for such concerns, bar none.

Intake and assessment forms should be appropriately modified to take into account patients’ socioeconomic issues. Additionally, nurses should receive training on broaching such sensitive subjects with patients who may be reticent to raise these issues on their own.

When the times are uncertain, nurses have a professional imperative to activate, advocate, and dig deeply into patients’ experience. As highly trusted professionals, nurses are in a position to make a difference for those anxious about an unpredictable future.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind

Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, Black Doctor, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog,, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George. You can follow George the Cat on Instagram using the hashtag, #georgethecatsantafe.

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