AACN News—December 1998—Opinions

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Vol. 15, No. 12, DECEMBER 1998


The Power of Nursing: Who Better to Champion Nursing Than Nurses Themselves?

Mary McKinley, RN, MSN, CCRN

AACN President

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
—Confucius

Did you read the recent “Ann Landers” advice column about nursing? “Nurses write about nursing, and they’re not happy” was the headline in my newspaper. The letters that were highlighted painted a very negative picture of our profession today.

Now, I am not some Pollyanna. As a clinical nurse specialist in a community hospital, I too am experiencing difficult times. I know that our job isn’t easy.
We struggle every day to care for our patients. Sometimes, I am called at home and asked if I can fill in on an extra shift when the units are busy. The traditions of care that my hospital has always taken pride in are changing. These changes are often driven by payers and regulatory agencies.

So, I am not surprised by the negative tones conveyed by the letters that appeared in the “Ann Landers” column. However, I was surprised that Ann Landers commented that she received no comments from nurses who are happy with their profession.

How devastating, how frightening and depressing, that these nurses no longer find joy or satisfaction in their work. As I travel around the country, I hear nurses describe their jobs in less than affectionate terms. Work-related stress undoubtedly is responsible for some of this frustration. The changes that permeate healthcare also account for some of this negativity. But how much is our personal responsibility?

Who is better to champion nursing than nurses themselves? Knox and Irving noted that commitment to the workplace, a sense of belonging, fairness, limited stress, role security, and professional respect are factors that improve the quality of a person’s work life. By working together, we can improve the “quality of work” factors that are essential to ensuring satisfaction among nurses.

Conventional wisdom views the nurse administrator’s job as assuring nurse satisfaction, but I don’t believe that this is solely the job of administration. Instead, it is a shared responsibility.

Each of us should bring our best contributions to our work setting. Do you help create an environment of commitment in your workplace? Sometimes we are tired and overworked, but when those feelings create a rut for us, it is time to take action. It has been said that the only difference between a rut and a grave are their dimensions!

We must work together to create a sense of commitment and support for one another. When students or new staff is being precepted on your unit, do you make an extra effort to welcome them, or do you act as if this training is just one more thing “they” are making you do, one more job in your day?

Promoting a sense of fairness and decreasing unit stress are also shared responsibilities. If there is disunity among the team, stress and fairness suffer. The result can be a dysfunctional unit, where more time and effort are expended in caring for the nurses than for the patients.

If nurses are to maintain professional security, they must validate their roles. If we do not identify for others what we do and why we are here—and back it up with solid, supporting data—how can we have role security?
The last factor is most telling: professional respect. I know that nursing needs to work on this one! Too often we “cut down” one another instead of supporting and validating each other’s great contributions to this profession. Sadly, many of us have witnessed this on an all too regular basis.

We have ownership in overcoming the sense of powerlessness and hopelessness among nurses. One way to start is to share the positives about nursing. There are nurses who, despite the difficult times, are proud and happy to be in nursing.

AACN News regularly publishes exemplars by Circle of Excellence award winners such as the one by Excellence in Caring Practices award winner Susan Yeager, RN, MS, CCRN, which appears on page 5 of this issue. In addition, on page 4 of this issue, neuroscience nurse members share examples of the value, reward, and satisfaction that they find in their critical care nursing specialty. These stories help me to realize that there is hope left for nursing. These stories emphasize that our relationship with others brings incredible rewards and personal growth. Our relationships with our patients and families help us to recognize that we have the power to make a difference in the lives of others.
Take the time to read these exemplars and you will understand what I mean. Although these nurses may live in the same tumultuous environment, they respond differently—not with the “ain’t it awful” mentality, but with the sense that they have the ability and power to influence outcomes for their patients and families. These nurses clearly understood that they could make things happen.

Their stories elicit a mixture of pride and understanding—pride because a colleague can tell his or her story so poignantly, and understanding because these stories have an “I’ve been there” kind of familiarity.
In spite of the disheartening letters in the “Ann Landers” column, I only need to look to AACN members to find stories that make me proud that I am a critical care nurse. I believe it is important that we respond to Ann Landers. Think about it. Don’t you have a positive story about nursing to relate? AACN is responding to the column as an association, but I encourage you to find the time to respond yourself! Let Ann Landers know that, although nursing is hard work, it is a job that you love.

I have been a nurse for 25 years, and I am planning to stay in nursing. I know that nursing is more than just a job, it is many jobs. It is a challenge and it is a joy!

Letters

Christmas in November
I wanted to tell you how excited we at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Cardiothoracic ICU in Accra, Ghana, are about the 65 books and 16 audio tapes that we have just received from the AACN National Office. We have received many fine books in the past from several generous donors, but we have never received this much material related to intensive care nursing.

This shipment of books and audiotapes fills a huge gap in our resource library. The nurses in the National ICU Program here now have some very current and pertinent reference material to help them in their studies. This material will also be available to our current ICU staff nurses, who are starving for reference material to upgrade their nursing practice skills.

This is indeed like Christmas in November. Please thank everyone who had a part in getting these books to us. We are very thankful and grateful.

John Morris, RN
Accra, Ghana

Donkey Basketball Event Saddens
I was saddened by the photo of the donkey basketball game (October 1998 issue, AACN News).

Although I wholeheartedly endorse charitable fund-raising, I was dismayed at the inhumane manner chosen for this event. Perhaps the organizers did not realize what these poor creatures must endure to entertain us.
I hope that alternative fund-raising methods will be considered in the future.

Stephanie Spolarich, RN, BS, CCRN
Schererville, Ind.

What Do You Think?

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