Recently I met a young nursing student and was asked to give her one piece of salient information with regards to becoming a nurse.
Nursing is a profession, though occasionally it does not feel like it. We obtain a specialized body of knowledge, we make a commitment to the provision of that knowledge, we promise to uphold what that specialized body of knowledge requires of us without causing harm to others and we accept all the associated responsibilities. But somehow the reality of a profession often gets lost along the way. When I look around today, I see a change and I struggle to figure out how that change can be positive and what parts we need to address. There is no question that nursing is changing, as everything it is only a reflection of the times. Historically nursing has grown out of modest beginnings, once “caring” meant something entirely less holistic. But nursing has grown to encompass great responsibilities and great benefits. We need to ensure we accept both.
Recognition of nursing as a profession of caring and intelligent individuals has definitely become the current view of nursing by the public and compensation has also grown reflective of the responsibilities and knowledge that nurses have obtained. The future of nursing is fairly certain in terms of need; however, the look of it and how it will be compensated are less certain. As fiscal restraint escalates, and by no means under estimate the finite limit of dollars to health care in the coming decades, and needs grow, our ability to ensure nursing continues to evolve and be recognized as a true profession will be challenged.
As a group, were nursing ever to get truly organized, we would be a force with which to be reckoned. In decades past nursing has had its occasions to rise up and demand better work environments, better wages, better recognition, and better control to ensure better care. It is time to rise up again. Previously it has been the union that has pulled nursing into a more recognized state through wages and working conditions, but I challenge that it is not the union now that will help us make then next leap forward. Without denying the role of the union I look afar to other strategies that will better meet the needs of nursing for the future. We need to focus on our profession, how are we seen as a profession, and how we demand that recognition. Personally, I believe the next big push needs to be the recognition and evolution of our association. It is the one group that will truly recognize nurses as nurses and help others to do so also. Both the union and the CRNBC have important roles to play, but only an association will support the evolution of nursing as a profession. Without it nursing is in danger of being broken into the professional and the technical. Were that to happen only a small number of nurses would continue to be recognized, work as and be compensated as professionals, the remainder would become the technicians and be compensated and recognized as such. This is a fate I do not want to see recognized.
So what did I say to that young nurse that day?? While so many salient things went through my head about providing good and honest care and being true to herself and not compromising, those were not what I said. I told her to get involved right away with the her local association in BC and start promoting nursing so that it will always continue to grow with new and energetic blood.
Wendy Bowles, MN NP F CCN(c) has been a nurse since 1991 and has worked primarily in acute care with a focus on vascular diseases and wound care. She has ventured into community at times including a northern exposure. She has also had opportunities to teach and program plan in a variety of settings including high acuity, wound care, and nursing programs. These experiences provided her with a multifaceted view of health care and nursing, and because of this she decided to solidify her advanced practice by becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Today her practice is still in acute and focuses on cardiac surgery. An NP in cardiac, she is involved in wound care, is co-editor of the BCNPA newsletter, a new editor for the BC Lymphedema Society newsletter, is a consultant and is involved with the Canadian Society for Vascular Nurses and the Venous Diseases Foundation. Wendy’s latest goal is to become more involved with her nursing organizations including becoming an active part of the ARNBC. She is also running for an At Large board position with the CRNBC to promote the profession of nursing (elections are in June 2012 ).