You’ve heard it said that “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” This proverb or phrase is credited to Giovanni Torriano published in Italian in a 1666 publication, “A Common Place of Italian Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases,” and reads, “Il mele catta più mosche, che non fà l’aceto”. Saying that phrase too loudly, though, among nurses right now could lead to a few dirty looks or even an outright rebuke. And, that response could be deserved, depending on the meaning behind saying it.
We realize in nursing, especially now with the loss of even more control for many nurses over workplace conditions post-pandemic, that somebody needs to influence a change on behalf of nurses and nursing. It seems everybody is immobilized and unable to influence the type of change nurses know is needed… and “the bleed” goes on. Well, what can we do? What is possible? One thing I’ve learned in my career is that nurses are a really smart group. They typically have a high level of critical thinking and creative problem-solving skill. This is why so many community organizations and coalitions seek for a nurse to serve on a board or task force. They seem to have an unending capacity to “think outside the box” which is a treasured skill in the current economic and regulatory climate in healthcare. While this is all true, if you ask a nurse if they feel valued or valuable to their employer – or manager – sadly, the answer will often be “no.” Being valued for the individual contribution we can bring to an organization’s product or quality outcomes is an important factor in employee morale and performance. It goes against the “human grain” to be treated like a chess piece on a board, something to be manipulated for the gain of the one holding the power. You can develop your nursing skills with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
The Value of a Nurse
I don’t want to minimize the myriad of changes needed, but I do want to highlight the change that I see is needed the most – that of basic respect for and valuing of the nurse and the role of the nurse in American healthcare institutions. In my years in the profession of nursing, I have often commented that it seems other healthcare professional roles are given more autonomy and status than the nurse?” In my years in hospital nursing, including administrative roles, I became aware that nursing care was bundled into room and board charges, while another professional role expense was a separate billing item. In community health, I saw that community health workers in some states could bill insurance companies as individual providers, with far less education and no nationally recognized licensure. Is this the root of the respect and valuing issue in nursing? Some nurses would say so. But is it all about systems of economy and billing?
The Marginalization of the Nurse
We are educated and trained to be broad-based systems thinkers and knowledge workers with a high level of accompanying technical skills. What happens when this type of knowledgeable and skilled professional role is thrust continually into a technician role? This is basically what I see has happened in the nursing profession throughout my career – you are either a nurse generalist technician or a nurse practitioner, and the nurse practitioner often operates in a medical provider role. The advent of the nurse practitioner role, then the removal of barriers in some states to full nurse practitioner autonomy, was thought to empower nursing as a profession. Unfortunately, and sadly, what has happened is a further marginalization of the nurse generalist role. And sadder still, from what I can see is that we as nurses bought into this! Are nurse generalists only to be recognized for the technical skill possessed by virtue of education, training, and practice, ignoring the fact that we are multi-level skilled knowledge worker professionals? I cannot answer for anyone but myself, but clearly, a change is needed regarding the role differentiation of the nurse generalist in the American healthcare system – for the sake of all consumers of U.S. healthcare. This is where the majority of the bleed is, and it is creating workforce challenges threatening not only the well-being of American consumers but also of the nursing profession itself.
Influence Leads Change
Influence – that’s the ticket to a change. Nurse influencing nurse, nurses influencing the profession, the profession influencing the American healthcare system, and the American healthcare system influencing public perception and the powers-that-be, including the global horizon. Going back to the phrase about catching more flies with honey than vinegar, my application regarding the type of influence needed in nursing is this, “Get the mad out, acknowledge the nature of the problem, mobilize, and find a way to move forward without hostility.” Whatever it takes – for you.
Advance Your Career with an Advanced Degree in Nursing
Advanced education in nursing can help you better understand the dynamics of modern healthcare systems, how to influence change, and the knowledge and skills to do so. I have never heard a nurse lament the time, energy, or money spent in achieving a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. I know it is possible but personally, I have not. What I have heard is many nurses expressing regret for not earning the MSN sooner, or getting to the end of their careers and wishing they had furthered their education with an MSN degree. Are you ready to influence?
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