Nurses are legion. We populate almost every corner of the healthcare industry, and we are the largest segment of the global healthcare workforce. In terms of hands-on care, we're at the bedside, in the home, caring for residents of long-term care facilities, taking care of schoolchildren, ministering to the dying, and tending the wounded on the battlefield. Like I said, we are legion, and our importance to society cannot be underestimated.
As a profession, nursing continues to gain traction. Previously viewed as a "pink collar" profession (in other words, a "soft" service-oriented profession made up mostly of women), we are now widely respected (in most circumstances), and nurses continue to be the most trusted professionals in the United States in every annual Gallup poll of the American public.
While we were historically championed by visionaries such as Lillian Wald and the ubiquitous Florence Nightingale, 21st-century nurses are championed and cajoled to greatness by nurse luminaries such as authors Carol Gino and Theresa Brown, among many others.
Meanwhile, the intrepid Teri Mills and the National Nursing Network Organization are waging an ongoing campaign to have the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the U.S. Public Health Service elevated to a position of public importance and prominence equal to that of the Surgeon General. A bill (HR 485) is currently before Congress, and hopes remain that the current Congress will see fit to pass this cost-neutral legislation and allow the CNO to be introduced to the public as The National Nurse For Public Health.
And here in New Mexico, hospice nurse, filmmaker and visionary Camille Adair is rolling out a new initiative to introduce FairCare, the healthcare version of a "Fair Trade" seal of approval, wherein healthcare facilities will learn to address the new "triple bottom line" of people, planet and prosperity.
Lillian and Florence would be proud.
Even as we gain traction, public trust and professional recognition, many nurses still feel that they are so much cannon fodder for the whims of government regulation, illogical industry mandates, physician hubris, and healthcare mismanagement. As corporate "suits" without clinical knowledge make decisions about how we can and cannot do our jobs, nursing union campaigns are consistently busted, wages are frozen in many regions of the country, and nurses can still feel that they are second-class citizens within the healthcare community.
Having said that, nurses also continue to fight back, demand improved conditions, and speak truth to power when it comes to patient care, occupational safety, and the quality of healthcare delivery.
Just as women (and men) around the world are rising up against violence against women (despite recent Congressional Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA), nurses are also rising.
Despite union busting, corporate malfeasance and other nefarious practices that attempt to keep the old healthcare paradigm alive and well, many nurses that I know are waking up, seeing the inequities within the healthcare system, and using their voices to verbalize opposition and offer new solutions. Such nurses include the previously mentioned courageous work of nurses like Teri Mills and Camille Adair, and the inspiring writings of Carol Gino and Theresa Brown. (Ms. Brown, a nurse author, writes for the New York Times, giving nurses and nursing the high-profile exposure that we have historically lacked in the popular media).
With government sequestration ramping up, healthcare reform in the works, and millions of Baby Boomers preparing for retirement and their latter years of life, many factors point to our collective inability to effect change in any logical or time-sensitive fashion. Still, many of us are doing what we can to advance various progressive agendas for the betterment of the nation and its health.
Nurses need to continue to rise. We cannot back down in the face of government inaction, and we cannot back down when confronted with corporate entities who have no true notion of how we do our jobs and deliver quality care.
Nurses are rising, and if we all join together, we will rise en masse and arrive to a new day, a new paradigm, and a new way of being.
Will you rise with us?