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President’s Column: Our Voice, Our Strength

Jun 01, 2019

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Let me tell you something I know: Patients need nurses.

OK, I know a few other things. Our healthcare system also needs nurses. It needs us not only to care for patients, but also for something nearly as important. It needs us to shape the future of healthcare.

Now these two things seem obvious to me. Yet I think we can sometimes fall into a trap of believing what we have to offer isn’t valued.

We’re overwhelmed with the chaos of our day-to-day reality.

Hospital mergers. Staff cutbacks. Nursing shortages.

It seems like that’s all we hear about these days. I recently read a survey that said 48% of RNs — just about half — believe the nursing shortage is worse today than it was five years ago. Almost as many — nearly 40% — believe they don’t have enough one-on-one time in their shift to spend with patients.

Aren’t you tired of these daunting statistics about our profession? I am. I think we need to hear some good news.

We are the largest workforce in healthcare today. There are an estimated 4 million registered nurses in the United States. We are the fifth largest profession in the nation.

In this country, it’s estimated that there are over 500,000 acute and critical care nurses — and nearly 125,000 are members of our AACN community.

Talk about Our Voice, Our Strength! Think about the strength of half a million acute and critical care nurses.

Through my travels this year, I heard many great stories of nurses. Powerful stories where nurses are using their voice to change the future of their practice — and the future of healthcare. Our words and actions radiate possibility.

As I reflect, I realize that I learned so much from all of you. Here are four important lessons you taught me that I think we can leverage as we use Our Voice, Our Strength to reinvent our future.

First, we must be united in our efforts. Together, nurses are nearly 30 million globally — and almost 4 million here in the United States. We are strong and fearless — and our voice is proud and courageous.

Next, we need to be clear about our unique contribution. Nurses consider all aspects of the patient: body, mind and spirit. We assess, analyze and intervene with large and subtle changes in condition. We educate the patient and their family. We are the orchestrators of the care they receive. Let’s strive to be fierce and diligent in protecting our role in the healthcare system.

Third, we need to engage and collaborate with our partners and colleagues in healthcare. Very little gets done in our work without the collaboration of many others on our teams.

Last, and I think most importantly, we must never forget our true north: the needs of patients and families. We are the voice for the voice-less — and creating the future is in our power.

Let me know how you are creating the future at OurStrength@aacn.org.