I think Florence would be proud to see how nursing has advanced over the many years since she opened the Nightingale School. Nursing has progressed far beyond the boundaries that were originally envisioned. Indeed, a good description of nursing today would be boundless. We have increased the educational levels found in both the academic and practical aspects of nursing. Nurse practitioners have further pushed our frontiers back in areas ranging from obstetrics to pediatrics to geriatrics. Nurses are a formidable force within the current healthcare system.
Even as great as that sounds, we still have a long way to go. I think that much of nursing’s potential is still untapped. As a group that comprises over half of the healthcare workforce, nursing should be able to have a major say in the future direction of healthcare. This was part of the findings from the Institute of Medicine’s report on The Future of Nursing. This is an achievable goal, but it is not something that we can just walk in a policy meeting and lay claim to. There are certain keys that will give nurses entrance to the committees, study groups and other policy making functions that are found anywhere from the local level to national and above.
The first key is formal education. If you don’t have a BSN, then get started on the road to increase your formal knowledge. Already have your BSN? Then set your sites on a MSN, MBA or other master’s level course. These initials behind your name show that you are serious about your future in this great profession. These initials show that you have made a commitment to become knowledgeable in the full spectrum of nursing. When you have knowledge that spans from the bedside to the board room, you are in a position to have a say in the future of not just nursing, but all of healthcare.
Informal education can be just as important. Skills that are essential to becoming a nurse are taught in nursing schools. But there are many other skills that will enhance and multiply the subjects you learned in school. Knowing the ins and outs of communications, planning and goal setting are but a few of these important enhancements. Similarly, the ability to read non-verbal language and think critically can be extremely important when dealing with people outside of the nursing field. Your ability to utilize emotional and social intelligence skills can bring you to the forefront of nursing no matter what the setting is. We must be just as comfortable discussing changes in policy and its impact on healthcare as we are discussing any number of health subjects with our patients.
The third key we will need to become a formidable healthcare force is the realization that we are capable of anything that we put our minds to. I want to scream every time I hear a nurse say “I’m just a nurse.” Who said that we don’t have an inherent worth? Who relegated us to the ‘also ran’ category of healthcare? Who started this ‘just a nurse’ business? Unfortunately, it can be traced back to our own doorstep. In nursing’s past we acted as a subservient group to physicians. Today is different. We collaborate with all medical professionals in providing excellent care. We need to notify our attitudes that things are different today. As Vickie Milazzo says, “we are nurses and we can do anything!” We need to update our thinking to agree with what the rest of the world already thinks about us. You don’t get rated as the most trusted profession for 10 years running without being great at what you do.
So Happy Nurses Week! Give you’re self a pat on the back for the great work you do in the multitude of settings that you practice in. Then when you are finished, take the next step to make your profession even greater.
Written by Donald Wood ARNP who is the author of ‘The Intelligent Nurse’. Utilizing 21st Century skills to enhance patient safety and satisfaction, Donald presents talks and seminars to nursing groups. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.