Author: Sarah Willson, Vice President of Clinical and
The American Nurses Association has designated 2017 as the “Year of the Healthy Nurse.” National Nurses Week, celebrated May 6-12, “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit,” is all about celebrating nurses who lead the charge for health and wellness among their patients, their families and themselves. Leading a charge means leading for change, and nurses must be willing to advocate for change. Advocacy is easiest when in the hospital or clinic, and there is an obvious patient or family need. Nurses are known as pioneers in being the voice of the patient. It’s no wonder the profession has been ranked as the most trusted profession for the last 15 consecutive years. However, our advocacy efforts must extend beyond the bedside and patient. Nurses are touted as the most likely candidates to lead our country through the current health care crisis. For nurses to do this, there also must be advocacy within legislation, regulation and in our communities. In addition, advocacy efforts must be inclusive of nurses. We must be the voice for all nurses and make sure to take care of ourselves and each other.
If you are like many nurses, advocacy in state and federal legislative and/or regulatory efforts doesn’t seem very comfortable. We are somewhat out of our element. We may lack a proficient understanding of the legislative process and how things really get done. Likely, you are unsure of the “politics” or who best you should talk to. There are protocols. Interestingly enough, this is the way many of our patients and families feel about being in a hospital. We have a lot to learn from one another. We need each other, legislators and nurses, to improve the health of our people and communities. To facilitate learning, we must start the conversation, choose to be involved, and lead change.
The only constant in health care is change. This is a commonly spoken and heard phrase among care providers. While change is a given, it’s how we experience this phenomenon that impacts the world in which we provide and experience care. Nurses impact outcomes for patients, families, other nurses and colleagues every second — positive or negative. We also possess the ability to impact organizational and community outcomes. Take the issue of simple hand hygiene. It impacts outcomes for patients who acquire infections, hospitals that have poor infection rates, community health, decisions to use a facility or not related hygiene practices, and ultimately revenues for sustaining or building programs. Nurses’ actions effect change.
So, how do you effectively participate in change? First, you must understand and accept why the change should occur and who will benefit from it. Additionally, part of understanding the change is knowing what is required for success. Often, this can be intimidating as we have a tendency to err on the side of caution. We can decrease our fears by studying the change and developing a simple pros and cons list. Then, do some work to determine if your pros and cons list is valid or based on personal bias.
Self-exploration is essential. Since change is inevitable you must ask yourself, “What is my place in the change?” Do you view the change as positive or negative? Why? Either way, participation is essential.
Change is brought about through advocacy. Advocacy involves engaging others, exercising voice and mobilizing evidence to influence policy and practice. It means speaking out against inequity and inequality. It involves participating directly and indirectly in political processes, and acknowledges the important roles of evidence, power and politics in advancing policy options.
Of any truth you glean from this article, this one should stick in your mind and carry with you your entire nursing career … you are only limited by what you are willing to accept and unwilling to change. For what are you willing/unwilling to advocate? If you’re not willing to accept a certain standard or be treated a certain way, then you have two choices: work to make it better or get out of the way.
What we do today matters, not only for today, but for the generations of nurses, health care professionals and the communities they serve.