Dear Nurse Wanda: The Value of A Nurse May 15, 2018

Charleston Cares Guest Blogger, Wanda Lefler, RN, is the Nurse Care Manager at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. Each month, she will offer her insight into patient care, health management – and the art of listening. If you have a medical question for Nurse Wanda, please e-mail your questions to

Today, an inquiry arose about the value of nurses. It was a good question, given that last week was “Nurses Week.” 

Answering such a question, however, is as complex as the methodology for determination. 

To begin with, their are in fact many different types of nurses: specialties such as operating room nurse, orthopedics nurse or an emergency department nurse. The list is quite long. 

Can the value of a nurse be derived from their level of education? Some are licensed practical nurses; then there are the registered nurses with associate degrees, while others obtained a bachelor degree in nursing. Some may even hold a masters or doctoral degree.

What, then, is the tie that binds each nurse across fields and levels of education? What uniting trait offers value to the community?

The professional world, at least, has its own gauge. The 2017 Annual Gallup Poll – for the 16th consecutive year – named nursing as the most honest and ethical profession. (It is quite an honor, as most nurses do not search out accolades or expect awards for doing their job!)

It stands to reason that a nurses value, ultimately, might depend on the person placing the value: perspective is key, and the “humanity factor” must be taken into account. Many such examples flood my mind when I ponder upon being a nurse, working with nurses, and having been a patient receiving nursing care myself. There are occasional stories about exceptional nurses extending themselves beyond the expected, at times risking their own safety to save a life. How does this distinguish their value in their chosen occupation?

At Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, we have two registered nurses employed full time – but the majority of them, 24 volunteer registered nurses – dedicate their time based on compassion to help alone. If you value the 3223.25 hours of volunteer work provided to the clinic during the year 2017 alone, at a median compensation comparison, these nurses gave to our community $99,861.59 worth of free care. 

These volunteer nurses are not required to come and serve the healthcare needs of those that live here; the nurses are from different places in the nation with a wide range of experience in the nursing profession. They chose the clinic as the place to gift their valuable time and talents. The patients are always grateful, and even request particular nurses at each visit to deliver their care, having developed a relationship. 

It has been my observation, a nurse is in attendance when we enter this world. Confidently wrapping a newborn in a warm blanket and gently placing in the mother’s awaiting embrace. And life inevitably leaves us all: so often, it is the nurse holding the hand as the time escapes the body; all the while speaking softly to calm us and those we leave behind. 

What is a nurse’s value then, exactly? To answer that, it is necessary to reflect on the occasions during your life in which there was in need for a nurse’s skill and care; absolute value can always be found in compassion.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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