The Power of Nursing
It’s the dawn of a new decade and the beginning of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. 2020 is also the culmination of the three-year long NursingNow campaign and marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale on May 12. That’s a lot to celebrate in one year! What’s most exciting is that each of these occurrences affords the opportunity to put a spotlight on nursing and the valuable life-saving, life-affirming, and life-enhancing work we do every day, every year, all around the world.
As nurses, we have a lot going for us. Yet our role is often misunderstood and undervalued in the healthcare system. We need to learn and utilize strategies to become more assertive, speak up and speak out, stand up for ourselves and our profession, and educate the public, even others in healthcare, as to who we are, what we do, and the critical role we play in global health and wellness.
What we have going for us:
- There are 4 million registered nurses in the United States, more RNs than we have ever had in this country. There are also several hundred thousand Licensed Practical Nurses. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 20 million nurses and midwives on the planet. There is strength in numbers.
- Nurses are the largest group of all healthcare professionals. We make up the bulk of the healthcare workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care. In many parts of the globe we are the only healthcare professionals providing care in a variety of settings. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. It cannot exist without us.
- For 18 consecutive years, nurses have been ranked #1 for honesty and ethical standards in a Gallop Poll. We rank higher than physicians, pharmacists, and all others. This gives the public, the media, and our clients a high level of trust in what we do and what we say. But it’s important to note that just because the public trusts us, it doesn’t mean that they, and others in healthcare, fully understand our role.
- The US Bureau of Labor Statistics consistently ranks some form of nursing in their top 20 list of Fastest Growing Occupations. This attracts the attention of the media, politicians, and those considering nursing as a career.
- Everyone needs healthcare. And healthcare today does not just equate to illness and disability management. It also encompasses wellness education and coaching, preventive care, research, health policy, education and more. It also does not exist only in healthcare facilities. Nurses are in business, boardrooms, politics, and government.
- We are headed into what is predicted to be the greatest shortage of nursing in our history. The demand for nurses will remain high in all settings for the foreseeable future. Additionally, new roles and opportunities are opening up for nurses continuously as we find new and innovative ways to provide high quality, cost-effective care to the masses.
How we can leverage all this good stuff:
Join and get active in your nursing associations. When we speak in one loud, collective voice, people listen. This includes the media and the public as well as politicians and healthcare administrators who make decisions about our license, practice, staffing, and compensation. Plus, united we stand, divided we fall. We don’t all need to agree on everything and we never will. But when we join forces to share our diversity of wisdom, experience, ideas, and opinions, we all become stronger and more empowered.
Talk about what you do. Learn to articulate the value of nursing in terms that others can understand. When asked what you do, describe the nature of your work without using acronyms or jargon. For example rather than simply saying, “I’m a nurse” or “I’m a NICU nurse” say, “I’m a registered nurse and I work in a neonatal intensive care unit. I take care of premature and newborn infants who are critically ill.” That is a clear and descriptive statement that conveys the significance of what you do. It helps to promote a more accurate and positive understanding of our role.
Learn to be more assertive. Developing communication, leadership, conflict management, and negotiation skills will boost your confidence, emotional intelligence, and ability to stand up for yourself and your profession. We give our power away when we are passive, silent, and simply accept “what is” believing we have no ability to impact our circumstances. Become proactive by taking courses and reading related books and articles. Then practicing your newly learned skills in everyday situations including committee work at your place of employment and professional associations.
Become politically aware. The real power is in the legislature and nurses can have an enormous impact here. Join a legislative committee in one of your professional associations to learn more about how bills are introduced and passed and how existing laws are changed. Reach out to local and state politicians to let them know you are an RN who lives, works, and votes in their district. Communicate important healthcare and workplace issues to them that effect patient care including the nursing workforce and working conditions. Consider volunteering to work on a political campaign for a candidate you support and exercise your right to vote.
Develop media savvy. Stories in the news influence people from all walks of life. So when nursing’s voice is absent in features related to healthcare, as it often is, it gives the impression that we are minor players. If employed, communicate through the proper chain of command to be sure your marketing department promotes the significant role nurses play in your organization. Acquire media training so that when you have the opportunity to speak to a journalist, you’ll be prepared. Write letters to the editors of online and print sources commenting on health-related stories and showcasing your expertise.
I’ll be writing in more detail about some of the above topics in future posts so stay tuned! In the meantime, work on these strategies to celebrate, promote, and empower yourself, other nurses, and the profession as a whole. Capitalize on the great power base we stand on and get the word out that nurses save lives and are crucial players in supporting global health and well-being. You do have the power…Nurse Power! Make it work for you and for all of us.