Registered nurses play a vital role in health care

Registered nurses play a vital role in health care


The responsibility for health care is pinned on Alberta’s 25,000 registered nurses and Bernice Lynn is a good example of why that’s a very good thing.

ernice Lynn is a registered nurse and the occupational health nurse at Olds College in central Alberta. A valued health professional, a registered nurse is usually the first point of contact in a health care situation. This is often particularly true in smaller communities and rural areas. However, as Bernice points out, many people don’t understand the true role of the registered nurse.

“I think most people’s perception of a registered nurse is of someone who works in a hospital or a doctor’s office and who follows the orders of a doctor directly. They don’t realize that registered nurses, even those who work in hospitals and doctors’ offices, still have to make independent nursing judgements and assessments, based on their own nursing knowledge and skills.”

This lack of awareness about the varied roles of registered nurses is one reason why the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses (AARN) recently launched a campaign asking Albertans to “Look for the Pin”. In many health care situations it’s not always clear who is doing what. The RN pin tells people they are being cared for by a highly educated and compassionate professional.

Bernice is a little overwhelmed and humbled at being chosen as one of the spokespersons for the AARN campaign. However, she is excited to have the opportunity to tell people about her role as an occupational health nurse and the coordinator of health and wellness services at Olds College.

Although most people associate nurses with hospital and illness, Bernice works among people who are healthy enough to attend classes or work at the College full-time. Bernice refers to her patient population as a community that includes approximately 1,200 full time students and 400 employees. As the only health care professional at Olds College, she is involved in most aspects of health and safety on campus and works cooperatively with a variety of other professionals both in the community and on campus.

In addition to providing the services of a clinical practitioner, her responsibilities include designing and implementing health promotion programs, injury and disease prevention programs and developing occupational health policies or guidelines. She is currently working on a strategy to prevent the spread of the Norwalk virus on campus.

Bernice is available on campus for consultation on any health issue including alcohol, date rape, birth control and safe sex. She devotes much of her time to promoting mental health: referring people to resources, supporting them in their decisions, identifying suicidal people and ensuring they get immediate medical and counseling aid. She monitors blood pressures, offers self-help strategies to address health care problems, and where appropriate, coordinates the services of the physician who sees students and staff in the campus health services office.

Other responsibilities include coordinating a first aid team on campus, providing hearing education and testing and completing hazard assessments. In January 2001, her skills and knowledge contributed to distinguishing Olds College as the first college in Alberta to achieve a certificate of recognition from the Alberta Safety Council for excellence in health and safety practices.

Bernice has been a registered nurse for more than 35 years and in that time, she hasn’t stopped learning or studying. Building on her initial registered nursing accreditation, she has earned her baccalaureate in nursing from the University of Lethbridge, completed an occupational health nursing certificate from Grant MacEwan College and participated in numerous nursing-related courses. She is an active member of the Alberta Occupational Health Nurses Association and has served as president.

Her years of experience and ongoing education enable Bernice to meet the challenges of her chosen profession. As an employee of Olds College, Bernice prides herself on her ability to give solid health care counsel and work cooperatively with her colleagues. Given Bernice’s experience, education and commitment, it comes as no surprise that the responsibility for health care is “pinned” on her.

The AARN submitted the above article to community newspapers throughout the province as part ofa public relations campaign to increase public awareness of the vital role of Alberta RNs in health care.

Copyright Alberta Association of Registered Nurses Feb 2003

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