December 12, 2012

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Nursing’s Future

NANCY J. BRENT, RN, MS, JD

Quite some time ago, I uploaded a photograph of myself for the Johnson & Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing’s Future Mosiac. I thought it was such a clever way to support the Campaign and I really looked forward to seeing what the mosaic would look like and exactly where my photo would be in the montage. Well, last week the mosaic was published and I was quite impressed (not by my photo or its placement!) but by the mosaic itself and the number of nurses who uploaded their photographs (10,000 nurses in all). If you haven’t seen it, check it out at http://www.discovernursing.com/.

I also immediately looked for nurse friends and colleagues who might have also decided to send in a photo of themselves. I found a few and I was glad to see that they, too, wanted to be a part of nursing’s future in this way.

Despite all the problems the nursing profession faces, both today and in the future, it still is a profession dear to my heart and so essential to the delivery of health care. Without nurses, where would patients, families, school-age children, communities, and others who utilize nursing services be? Who would care for them? Who would teach them? Who would advocate for them? Who would hold their hands when undergoing treatment or when death is near?

And, who would teach the many, many students of nursing who strive to become nurses? It is a well-known fact that a shortage of skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable nursing faculty exists. More competent and capable nurse educators must be hired (and educational programs accessible and available for them to become credentialed so they can teach) to prepare those students who will graduate and begin their practice in a nursing specialty they select.

Regardless of what you think about the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you cannot ignore the fact that it opens up a world of opportunities for nurses and advanced practice nurses. As examples, nurse positions in ambulatory care, home care, community health and long-term care are predicted to be numerous. The Act’s Nurse Faculty Loan Program, the purpose of which is to increase the numbers of qualified nurse faculty to educate nurses, should help the nurse faculty shortage. Likewise, Title VIII’s provisions for nursing grants to retain nurses should ease the exit of all nurses, but particularly those who are older and experienced, from health care delivery systems.

Will all of nursing’s problems, current and future, be solved easily and quickly? Of course not. But now there is a potential positive solution to change what’s wrong with the delivery of health care today and to make it what it can be, with nursing at the core of this transformation.

Let me be clear that this is not a political blog about supporting the Act. It is, however, a comment on the importance of nursing and its future in the delivery of quality care to those who need competent and educated nurses who can provide excellent nursing care.

Don’t blow the chance to be part of nursing’s future. Participate as you can in the opportunities afforded by the Act. Get an advanced degree. Change your specialty from medical surgical nursing to gerontology or try practicing in a setting other than acute care. If you are a nurse educator, take advantage of the loans available to you. And do what you can, including being a visible and vocal nurse leader in whatever role you have, to educate the public about how essential you are in the delivery of quality health care.

It is my hope that in a few years another mosaic will be designed (perhaps again by Johnson & Johnson, perhaps not) for nurses to upload their photos in another show of support for nursing and its future. If I’m around, I certainly plan to send in my photo (I will look a lot older, that’s for sure!). I hope you will consider doing so too.

Nursing’s future, with all of its current difficulties, is a bright one. Be a part of it and be a part of its changes in any positive way that you can, not only for your patients or your students, but for yourself as well.

 

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