The image of nursing is important. Public image creates a frame-work by which others approach nursing as a profession, as well as each nurse individually. Image influences patient safety, resource allocation, public policy, recruitment into the profession, and other issues that have far-reaching consequences.
This is an exciting time in healthcare. Never before has the role of the nurse been so pivotal to our patients, our employing agencies, or our profession. While the issues we face in healthcare are critical, we are an industry in flux. Presenting a balanced view of the nurse’s role and contribution to healthcare is essential. The impact of nursing’s images comes to bear in several important ways.
Resource allocation: Funding for healthcare, whether at an organizational or governmental level, is dependent on a common understanding of the needs of the population and the professional group making the request. Unless the contribution of the professional nurse is clearly articulated, funding for nursing could be jeopardized. From the nursing unit budget for staffing, training, equipment, and supplies, to the national budget for nursing research and scholarships, knowledge of what nurses do and what they contribute is vitally linked to the allocation of limited resources.
Influence on public policy: Nursing opinion is viewed by legislators as balanced and objectives because nurses focus on the impact of potential legislation on the public, with little opportunity for personal gain. For this reason, the opinion of the nurse is valued by legislators seeking to understand healthcare issues. Nurses also influence public policy through professional associations, appointments to boards, commissions, task forces, and committees.
Recruitment into the profession: A growing concern is the evolving nursing work-force shortage, expected to peak in the next 10 years. In order to recruit the best and brightest into nursing, it is essential that students, teachers, and counselors have a more objective view of the role of a registered nurse. The traditional view, focused on the virtues of nurses as caring, compassionate workers, does not accurately portray the academic rigor required to become a nurse. A stronger focus on the expertise required to save lives through the application of hard science would go a long way to help recruit students with the requisite cognitive and interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in this career field.
Interdisciplinary relationships: Although nurses’ autonomous role is incredibly important and should not be understated, the reality is that much of the nurse’s work is accomplished in an interdisciplinary environment. In order to fulfill the requirements for coordination of care and advocacy for the needs of the patient, professional respect is essential. Patient care is best served by nurses with strong, assertive communication skills who are able to establish collegiality that is focused on patients and patient care.
Patient trust: The public image of nurses as trust professional provides an important backdrop for these relationships; however, the factors at play in the moment add other dimensions. Through consistency and skill, this relationship is crafted moment to moment, from nurse to nurse, and remains fluid and dynamic during the entire encounter. The patient’s previous encounters are brought to the current situation as well, adding further complexity to the situation.
What are other ways the public image of nursing can be important?
Source: Karen Tomajan, MS, RN, BC, CNAA, CRRN, contributing author; The Image of Nursing: Perspectives on Shaping, Empowering, and Elevating the Nursing Profession.