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American Nurse welcomes “The Dauntless Nurse,” Kathleen Bartholomew

By: Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN

What is Nursing?

If you asked 1,000 nurses, you would get 1,000 different answers.  I know because that’s what I do for a living – I travel around the country asking, “What is Nursing?”

Maybe this is why our profession is not as respected, understood, and supported by the general public.  A 2010 Gallop Survey of 1,500 thought leaders throughout the country found that nursing has the least amount of influence on healthcare reform and its implementation – even less than patients.  Why? Because they don’t know who we are.

The ANA defines nursing with the following:

“Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.”

What is your take on the meaning of this definition? 

My opinion is that we have failed to convey the essence of what it means to be a nurse in words the public understands; and in words that we use to describe our profession every day.  We need something short and to the point.  Something that conveys the importance yet diversity of this amazing profession and also flashes a mental picture across our mind’s eye…

When you think of a fireman, you get a picture of someone putting out a fire and rescuing sleeping children from a burning building.

When you think of a policeman, you get a picture of a police car chasing the bad guy.

When you think of a nurse…..

Well that depends on where you work as an ICU is nothing like Rehab which is nothing like hospice or public health or…

Do you think nurses understand the impact of this lack of visualization?

No financial support, no ability to staff our units, no nurses in public schools, poor salaries for faculty?

Let’s work together to create a poignant and vivid definition that portrays a mental picture every nurse can resonate with so that we can all respond with the same words

What is Nursing?

My friend Gail Latimer started us off! “Nursing is caring for people and populations.”

So, what does nursing mean to you?

Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN, is an internationally recognized patient safety and health culture expert. Kathleen has spoken on leadership, communication, patient safety, and peer relationships to hospital executives and nurse leaders for twenty years.

All of her books come from her passion to understand the stories of nurses.  Her books, “Ending Nurse to Nurse Hostility” and “Speak Your Truth” illuminate our relationships with our peers and physician partners.  She is also co-author of “The Dauntless Nurse” which was written as a communication confidence builder.

Kathleen is also a guest Op Ed writer to the Seattle Times and has been interviewed twice on NPR’s “People’s Pharmacy”. Her Tedx Talk calls for changing our belief system from a hierarchy to equality in order to keep our patients safe – and also explains how disaster thrust her into ‘the best profession ever’.

You can also find more information about Kathleen on her website, Twitter, and Facebook

The views and opinions expressed by My Nurse Influencer contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Shara Sutherlin
    January 28, 2020 7:39 pm

    I agree and strongly believe that NURSING needs a more united front and a national voice. Creation of a national role ie. ‘Nurse General’ to role model, speak for and with our collective vs disparate voices.
    One that would determine a standardized educational path to practice, and ‘mentoring internships.’ With so many avenues, pathways, and varying state licensing rules-we remain more vulnerable to our challenges for strong collaborative platforms and roles that would provide a stronger, cohesive identity with and for those we serve. Our energies could be more focused and create a stronger identity, purpose, while addressing more ‘health’ care needs. More Nurses on Boards of all backgrounds critical. A 1 million+ shortage of nursing is upon us. IOM spearheaded our ‘Future of Nursing.’ Let us-Nurses take it from there and address our national equation and footprint for our future. We should move forward as one so that we are not ‘divided’ by all too familiar components of healthcare budgets and decision-making that oft takes away from best, safe patient and family care.

  • I could not agree more. And how can we convey this to the public?

  • Yvonne Combrinck
    January 27, 2020 4:05 pm

    The essence of my professional dignity study came to mind when I was reflecting on the question of what is nursing: “Professional standing in percipience of self and others”…when in equilibrium…the art of being a nurse transpires into beautifull moments of science in caring for others to our full potential.


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