As a group of dedicated nursing educators, it brings us great joy that the World Health Organization has proclaimed 2020 The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The organization made the announcement, in part, to raise awareness of the worldwide nurse shortage, noting that 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed by 2030 to achieve universal health coverage.
Being a nurse is one of the most difficult but also rewarding professions, and, in our opinion, no vocation deserves this recognition more. Read on for some of our thoughts on why nursing is important, everyday struggles that nurses face, and how nurses are changing the world.
Why nursing is important
It is widely known that nurses are a key part of the healthcare team. They generally spend the most time with patients, building relationships and getting to know their patients on a personal level. Their relationship with patients becomes the basis for providing holistic, patient centered care.
The reasons nurses are important are innumerable. Nurses help to shape the health of their communities on a daily basis. School nurses provide education, public health interventions, and preventative care to the children in our schools. Long term care nurses hold the hands of our parents and make sure they are able to live with the dignity they have earned. Critical care nurses greet us in the ER, and mother baby nurses guide us during the birth of our first child. The list goes on, and the knowledge and skills nurses possess is extensive. Oftentimes, they literally hold our lives in their hands.
Which is why we at the IACN are firm advocates for facilitating the seamless progression of nurses from generalist degrees (the ADN, to the BSN), to advanced practice degrees. In addition to the types of nurses that most people are familiar with – those with A.A.S in nursing or BSN degrees – many nurses progress further in their education and have specialized skill sets that add to the quality of healthcare available to a community. Nurses with advanced degrees practice as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, public health practitioners, nurse educators, and nurse researchers. Others focus on healthcare administration, working to improve the systems in which care is delivered. Regardless of their area of specialization, advanced practice nurses impact their patients and community in very tangible ways.
Challenges in the healthcare environment
It is clear that healthcare as we know it is changing. And, while it is also clear that nurses are a critical part of any healthcare system, being a nurse is very challenging. Nursing has one of the highest rates of burnout of any occupation. Indeed, a recent survey from RN Network found that half of all nurses have considered leaving the profession.
With much of the United States facing a nursing shortage, it is no surprise that the most cited reason in the survey was “feeling overworked.” Even more alarming than the burnout rate is the rate of violence that occurs against nurses. The American Nurses Association reported that, in healthcare, 13% of days off taken by workers were the result of workplace violence. They also note that this trend has increased in recent years.
While these statistics are shocking, it proves how resilient nurses are, and gives us another reason to celebrate them.
How nurses change the world
Despite the challenges that nurses face, they are changing the world every day. As healthcare changes and providers are able to spend less time with their patients, more of the burden of care has fallen on nurses. They act as catalysts for this change, and consistently go above and beyond what is expected of them.
As a result, nurses serve as teachers, companions and friends. They are patient educators and facilitate patients making life-long changes to improve their health. This dual role of caregiver and educator is an important reason that we at Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing feel that nurses deserve this year of recognition and celebration.
Congratulations to all of our colleagues in nursing and midwifery!