Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Leaders in the Healthcare Trenches: Let's Start Recognizing Nurses for Their Expertise

Why aren't we hearing more about nurse practitioners and nurse mid-wives as part of the solution in the health reform debate? In studies, it has been found that nurse practitioners can effectively manage 80% of primary care. They are leaders with expertise in promoting health and wellness and in chronic disease management.

In a recent CNNMoney list of the top 50 jobs in the U.S., nurse practitioners ranked #4 based on projected job growth over the next 10 years. The career of nurse practitioner received high marks for personal satisfaction (A), future growth (A), benefit to society (A), and job security (B). Ironically, the only low mark was for inherent stress in the role!

An interesting perspective on nurses' value is offered by Sandy and Harry Jacobs, authors of the new book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk. They make the case that nurses save lives every day but the media usually ignores their vital role in healthcare. The authors share many examples where nurses provide the 24/7 care that saves the lives of military personnel or make critical judgments in Intensive Care Units that avert patient complications, even death.

The authors claim that in countless media stories, the doctor receives credit for care that is actually provided by a team of nurses or other skilled health professionals. While not diminishing the crucial role of hard-working physicians, the lack of recognition for nurses puts the public at risk. Patients die when nurses are understaffed or under-empowered or when "nursing care" is assigned to people who do not possess the necessary skill set.

The authors succinctly make the following points about the profession:

  • Nursing is a distinct scientific field and an autonomous profession
  • Nurses follow a holistic practice model that emphasizes preventative care and overall wellbeing
  • U.S. nurses are almost always educated at colleges by nurse scholars
  • Nurses report to senior nurses, not physicians.

The authors highlight the role and contribution of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who, they point out, are largely ignored within the media as health experts.

The book concludes that nurses are the critical front-line caregivers in healthcare and, to a large extent, our future depends on a better understanding of nursing.

I want to encourage the media to reach out to nurse experts for comments and perspectives in patient care. Many of us have "years in the trenches" and can offer valuable insights into integrative health and healing.

What do you think? As you hear about proposed health care reform, has there been enough emphasis on nursing? Send me a note, I'd like to hear from you.



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