I hope your holidays were peaceful and you are leaping into 2014 to accomplish all of your goals. The College of Nursing (CON) has been a busy place over the last few months. The faculty and I have engaged in a strategic planning process to envision where the CON should be in 5 years. You will hear about that at our Spring Forum on January 22 (1-3 pm, Weiskotten 9th floor). I will give you a preview – Our new mission is “To leverage the powerful professional voice of nursing through outstanding education, clinical expertise and research to improve health across the communities we serve.” What does that mean? It is now, more than ever before, that nursing’s professional voice, in the aggregate and individually, is desperately needed. In the debates over health insurance coverage, rarely was a nurse cited as one of the expert opinions. Dean Kathleen Potempa of the University Of Michigan School Of Nursing was part of the conversation, but few others. Surely your patients, neighbors, family and friends have solicited your opinion about the media coverage, the political conversations or their personal insurance issues. Do you feel sufficiently knowledgeable about this matter so as to provide information and understanding? If not, spend time immersed in the literature so your professional voice is not only knowledgeable but powerful. The journal Health Affairs is an excellent resource and it is available on our library site. The January 2013 issue is particularly important with articles on transforming care, use of teams to solve the primary care shortages, and how care is improved in NP staffed clinics at lower costs. The solution to the health care “problem” – lack of access to primary care and preventive services – is solvable by teams of health care professionals, all of whom are practicing at their full scopes of practice. Nurses – BS, NP, DNP, PhD – are all integral and essential parts of the teams needed to address the health care needs of society. Older, sicker, more chronically ill, poor and those with inadequate access to health care will all be better served when nurses are practicing without artificial restrictions on practice based on turf and power needs by others.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a series on military veterans of WWII who were lobotomized at VAs across the country. The series is called The Lobotomy Files and it is essential reading for every nurse. Over 2000 mentally ill and homosexual veterans were subjected to this procedure, some of which were done using an icepick technique behind their eyes. Families remain traumatized to this day over so many WWII heroes who were reduced to childlike behavior and meaningless lives and death. Why is it we have not heard the voices of nurses about these veterans, and their years of suffering? A culture of silence and secrecy is incompatible with the powerful professional voice of nursing. One of our most important ethical obligations is to advocate for those who can’t. Abuses like this are still occurring – there are instances every day in newspapers across the country. Each time I read about another case, I wonder where the nurses are. We will have discussion about this issue at our Spring Forum on January 22.
A recent study by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing describes how the nurse with a baccalaureate degree has a substantially higher job offer rate across the country than the national average across all professions. Those nurses who receive an entry level Master’s degree have an even higher rate of employment, and that is a program we are evaluating for the CON. Why are employment rates so much higher for nurses with more educational preparation? Because nurses who are prepared at higher levels have the systems thinking, the ability to articulate professionally, and the skill in evaluating the data effecting health care which nurses prepared at the associates degree do not have. Those of you in baccalaureate education should be proud of yourself, and excited about your career possibilities. Those of you in graduate and DNP education should be reaching out to nurses at all levels to support them in their decision making about returning to school. If you have not already, take the time to read The Future of Nursing report by the Institute of Medicine (2010). You can find it here. (Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Retrieved from http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12956&page=R1)
This is a complex, difficult health care environment, and it is going to take the voice – the powerful, professional voice – of EVERY nurse to ensure people are receiving the best health care possible. We owe them no less, and it is the reason that nurses are voted the most trusted ethical professionals year after year after year. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.