May 12th was the International Nurses’ Day (IND), a very special day for the nursing profession who commemorated all around the globe. On that day, nurses are able, for once, to say that they have something of their own and, as a bonus, they even get a small gift from their employer (if they’re lucky enough to get one).
The International Nurses’ Day has passed and now what? Now we go back to the reality from which we never really left. A reality where we have a professional group with serious difficulties to organize itself, that doesn’t use the power of its numbers and that continues to be undervalued and abused in almost all (all?) the countries in the world.
I wonder if we really should be happy for having a day dedicated to us. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they only dedicate international days to groups of people who for one reason or another were victims at a given moment in History. Is that what we want to continue to be? Victims of discrimination by governments and healthcare systems throughout the world? Or do we want to take on the leadership role that the International Council of Nurses advocated in this year’s IND theme?
Nurses as leaders… Don’t make me laugh! We are far from it! It’s not because there are a few examples of nurses who stand out in some healthcare structures that we can suddenly start talking about nursing leadership. At least, not in the sense in which we are used to thinking about leadership. If we want to stimulate a more proactive posture for nursing and start giving visibility no nurses’ work, we have to occupy “our space” within the teams and assume all the responsibility that comes associated with it.
Nursing should start by discovering itself, defining the paths it wants to follow, just like a sailor must first trace his route if he wants to discover the world with his boat. It should be clear in our minds what kind of professionals we want to be and how we can influence the system, both individually and collectively.
We must define how we can add value to the healthcare system e be able to show it with each single one of our actions as nurses. We can’t continue to do things like defending a nursing intervention to a less cooperative patient by saying: “The doctor ordered…” – because a sentence like this one only diminishes our authority as healthcare professionals, even if the person finally accepts what we asked from her.
Nurses as leaders… Yes, we can and we must lead our peers to distance themselves from the image of the nurse that helps/obeys the doctor and come closer to the image of the autonomous professional that adds a unique kind of value to the healthcare system. We must defend our autonomy in decision making vis-a-vis the other members of the multidisciplinary team.