Nurses Must Educate Public about Value of their Work

  1. Quoted from the NTI News, the newsletter about the NTI confrence in Atlanta, May 4-9:

    A well-publicized shortage of nurses has drawn the attention of the public and politicians, but it is up to nurses to explain why people are leaving the field or choosing not to go into it, award-winning journalist Suzanne Gordon said ... during her keynote address.

    "You are doing some of the most fascinating work in the world, some of the most critical work in the world. Don't hide it; tell us about it," she said.

    Gordon is an adjunct professor at the McGill University School of Nursing and is the author of
    Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines. Her latest book, written with Bernice Buresh, is
    From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public.

    Nurses must educate the public by telling them what they do on a daily basis instead of staying in the background. Although the public says it trusts nurses, it doesn't seem to respect what they do, she said. "What they don't know is what you know, and the complexity of what you do. That is what we must educate the public about," Gordon said.

    Many nurses are overly modest and worry that they might be seen as egotistical if they talk about their work, but that is not the case, she said. "You need to tell people, I evaluated the patients, the patients didn't evaluate themselves. I weaned patients from the ventilator, the patients didn't wean themselves. There is nothing self-aggrandizing in those statements," Gordon said.

    In addition to educating the public, nurses must continue to insist on recognizing what Gordon calls the three Rs -- respect, recognition, and reward.

    "By a reward, we don't mean a pat on the head occasionally by management. We don't mean trinkets or heart-shaped keys or soggy hospital hors d'oeuvres during Nurses Week," Gordon said. We want you to get a raise. We want our society to work seriously toward the full integration of nursing into the public imagination of health care."

    But for that to happen, nurses need to band together, she said. There are often disagreements over who is a "real" nurse, and these divisions among critical-care nurses, staff nurses, union nurses, and others weaken their power. "What is the test of a real nurse? The test of a real nurse is a person who fights for the kinds of resources that allow a good nurse to do good nursing," she said.

    "You're a critical-care nurse. If you see a pediatric nurse fighting for more resources, that has to be your fight. If you see an academic fighting to increase financial support for nursing education, that has to be your fight. If you see unionized nurses striking for limits on mandatory overtime or better pay, that has to be your fight. And if you see anyone anywhere fighting for a better health care system, one that is based not on private greed, but human need, that definitely has to be your fight," Gordon said to loud applause.

    Comments welcome.
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  3. by   ga.bones
    I don't think the public wants to be educated. After hospital quotes say things like the food was cold, I didn't get a bath,etc. Or nurse x (really a tech) was so good to me, I got shaved every day. Maybe the companies who write the questions are asking the wrong questions?
  4. by   OC_An Khe
    I've attended a keynote speech by S Gordon and have read her books. I highly recommend either activity to anyone interested in the Nursing profession. Which I had her gift of words as she expresses and communicates her thoughts well.
  5. by   fedupnurse
    I agree, we do need to educate the public. They need to know that when they are in the hospital they need to have safe nurse to patient ratios because WE are the ones who catch complications. We are the ones who harass docs to get their butts out of bed and come in if need be to address life threatening problems. My neighbor said to me today, if it weren't for you nurses my husband would b dead. His doctor didn't want to come in and it was a nurse who demanded he come in and bring him to the cath lab. The doc came in (I was there that night-he wasn't my patient) and took him to the lab and found his stent had occluded. His wife was there and heard my colleague yelling at the doctor and me threatening to tell the wife that he wouldn't come in. She said she never knew that kind of stuff went on and how grateful she was that we spoke up to him like that. I asked her to tell everyone she knows.
  6. by   LaurieCRNP2002
    There is a thread under Nursing Activism/Politics that has the same title as Ms. Gordon's book, "From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public". My comments are there, so I won't repeat myself. The link for the thread is below.

  7. by   teamrn
    I feel the public is slowly becoming receptive to answers. In the past, they had their heads buried SO far, that any education just went right by them. However, now, they see that not only are we PATIENT teachers as far as treatment and clinical issues go, but our advocacy role is stretching QUITE beyond what it used to. It is our DUTY to teach them about respect, recognition and reward.

    Please fellow nurses, educate, write/call legislators, write letters, BECOME INVOLVED !

  8. by   Tookie
    We need to tell the public that without the most important element in the health system then there is no health system -

    We nurses, all of us, are the glue that holds the system together -without our 24 hour service to the public no one would survive

    Until the public (what ever country) appreciates and understands what we do we will always be undervaled. We have to be proud to say that I am a nurse and then tell people what exactly what we are doing for the health of our nations - That does not mean we break confidentiality it means we tell people what our job entails and be proud of it. I beleive that there are many cogs in this systems but few that work as hard or as well as we do.

  9. by   Cindy_A
    I think it would be great if a station like the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel had a show entitled "The Education of a Nurse" to show how much we are required to know, or a program entitled " A Day in the Life of a Nurse" and show the public exactly what a nurse does on her/his shift. We need some type of medium that is available to as much of the general public as possible.
  10. by   teamrn
    Onward and upward Cindy A and Sandra. If you're not part of the SOLUTION, you're part of the PROBLEM. Have each and everyone ONE of you done something to further the 'cause of improved healthcare for today? Be it retention, salary, education, recruitment, working conditions, etc. I'm not a rabble rouser, but I feel that nuring has it within itself to make huge changes, but we sell ourselves short