August 5, 2010

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Wake up and smell the opportunities

When someone asked Edward Everett Hale, the first chaplain of the United States Senate, if he prayed for the Senators, he said, “No sir. I look at the Senators and pray for the public!” And there are times when I feel the same about nursing, if for different reasons! Nurses and nursing have so much to offer – and our nursing organizations have stepped up to the plate and advocated successfully for both nurses and the public. But we nurses often speak with divided loyalties and fractured language (jargon). We bristle over words like training and medical when members of the public have no idea what our problem is. Sometimes I honestly believe that we have a death wish – or at the very least suffer from the Cinderella Syndrome. Well, it’s time to stop it!

Yes, all of you out there: listen up! Healthcare reform not only has passed; it contains a number of provisions that could offer unprecedented opportunities for nurses, if we are savvy enough to take advantage of them. For once, let’s not take our cues from what we hear from unhappy physicians and nervous hospital administrators. Certainly there are specific provisions for nurses (workforce initiatives, grants, increased reimbursement for advanced practice nurses, etc.). But also there are enormous opportunities for nurses in many of the other provisions.

It is also true that physician’s assistants and perhaps some other as-yet-to-be-invented midlevel practitioners could take advantage of these provisions. Undoubtedly some will, and I wish them well…but there is no doubt in my mind that nurses are ideally suited to do more for the public than any other single group. And we number in the millions if only we are open enough and smart enough to put forward the resources we have to help the public. To do so successfully we must understand and internalize:

1. The fact is that health reform is all about the public and the public’s access to healthcare services. It is not about reimbursement for doctors (or nurses for that matter). It is not about profit (or margin for the not-for-profits), politics, or market share.           

2. Nurses have certainly “walked the walk” but we rarely “talk the talk”…Everything we propose and everything we are involved in must be seen in light of what the public wants and needs, and spoken of in terms the public not only understands, but also resonates with…

3. We are entering a period of rapid and chaotic change: be an active part of it. Enthusiastically volunteer for innovative programs; participate in the “medical home;” be part of the “hospital-at-home” projects; help design “accountable care organizations.” Don’t cling to the old ways –create new ways (and don’t worry about what they are called).

4. Help nursing’s leaders develop an “elevator” definition of what nurses have to offer, why nurses are a good choice, and just how diverse we nurses are. And we have to be able to say it in two minutes or less using ordinary words that ordinary people understand. This is critically important! If you have any ideas – please share them here – and now!

6 thoughts on “Wake up and smell the opportunities”

  1. Louise Moondancer says:

    It is very tempting to cling to the old ways but at a standstill, everyone else will pass you by…Healthcare reform seems so confusing but I believe it is a start toward helathcare for all and that can only benefit everyone. It is exciting to realise that there are opportunities!

  2. Kathy Moon, FNP-BC says:

    Health Care is suffering from the same problem as Wall Street – corporate greed, and a pharmaceutical industry that “medicalizes” problems to create sales, and distracts us from what we really need: a system that prevents illness and promotes health! Communities need to become engaged in their own health and lifestyle choices. Insurance is designed for unforeseen circumstances. Health care is an ongoing need for all; we need a public health plan, not greedy private insurers.

  3. Leah Curtin says:

    Whether a particular citizen likes it ir not, and whether or not it is comprehensive enough, health care reform is now law — and the regulations are being written now to translate it into expectations of providers and consumers alike. The real issue now is how nurses and nursing will be positioned to be of greatest help to the public which, fortunately, translates into opportunities for nurses. So – how DO we best describe — in as few words as possible — what nursing have to offer?

  4. Anonymous says:

    As I grow older, I am concerned that health reform will cut Medicare – especially the Medicare Advantage offered by AARP – an HMO that requires no premiums and actually reasonable co-pays. For many of us, this is a life-saver. Will it be cut? Will we have to pay premiums now?

  5. Noreen says:

    Unlike the previous commentator, I do not think ‘ig government’ is the problem with health care reform. The problem is that it does not go far enough – and adds costly layers of bureaucracy. What we need is Medicare for all

  6. Anonymous says:

    I do not agree – health care so-called “reform” is another step toward big government control of every aspect of our lives. It is bloated, unaffordable, and will destroy our world-class health care system! If nurses benefit – then shame on us!!

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