There are around 3.5 million nurses in the United States, voted year after year as the most trusted profession, many characters on TV shows play our roles (ineffectively, but it gives us TV time). 3.5 million nurses, yet we often feel forgotten, we often feel as if we do not have a voice in the healthcare industry. Nurses account for the largest employment amongst healthcare occupations, but we are treated as a minority. Nurses everywhere complain of the poor work environment, work overload, poor leadership, burnouts, bullying, low compensation, outdated tools, etc.
How did we allow the largest workforce in health care become silenced? Well, the answer is simple, there aren’t enough nurses helping make decisions for us. We are ruled by businessmen and insurance companies, and we allowed it to go on. Many hospitals will allow CFOs to rule out a CNO's opinions, claiming budgets do not allow for improvement in the nursing units to happen, but we see "make-up" jobs happening everywhere within the hospital to present as a hotel-like atmosphere for patients and visitors, while nurses are dealing with increased patient loads, nonfunctioning basic nursing tools, such as blood pressure machines, and thermometers (I recently worked in a hospital that had 2 working thermometers for a unit of 46 beds).
I attended a mandatory town hall meeting with the CEO in a facility I worked in, which is another problem, meetings with the CEO should not have to be labeled mandatory for staff to show up, staff should automatically want to become involved, anyways, the CEO said something that stuck with me, not sure if she was just saying it to please our ears but it worked, she said “patients come to the hospital to receive nursing care, nurses are the main caregivers, and patients are here because of you all.”
Then again, in that particular facility, the number of nurses on the board of directors was limited. We desire change, but lack representation to accomplish them. We beat the numbers of healthcare employment in the workforce, but we lack administrative representation, most directors and administrators in the hospitals and healthcare facilities have no medical background. Going in on your off day is not that bad of an idea if it will help you become involved in shared governance and other committees making decisions in your hospital or healthcare facility.
There is a national campaign encouraging nurses to take part and join boards and other decision-making bodies, the nursesonboardscoalition.org, is a coalition attempting to have 10,000 nurses partaking in various boards nationwide by 2020, with the view that all boards would benefit from having a nurse’s perspective to achieve goals and improve the efficiency of the health care system. It is up to us to make it work. I personally do not agree with strikes as a mean to be heard, but that is my personal opinion (I’ll probably get some backlash for this statement.) I think we may put the patients we vowed to protect at harm by striking (again, my personal opinion, please don’t let this overshadow the point I am trying to make). We must invade the boards of directors and commissioners. Nurses, by continuing education and reaching high levels in the healthcare spectrum will make change happen. We have the patients at heart, and nurses will fight for safe working conditions and quality of care for the community we serve.
We need nursing leadership throughout all spectrum of the nursing field, and leadership that will listen and actually takes into consideration concerns that are brought up by the nurses working within the units. Demand budget transparency from managers and administrators, why can’t we afford a new blood pressure machine, or hire a new nurse? I believe nurse managers should share such information with their staff, do not play behind the scenes and keep your staff guessing what will come their way next, ask for input.
Also, it is our responsibility to maintain the healthy and functional work environment, have pride in your unit and treat it as your second home, most times it is. Do not feel afraid to go in and take that extra shift, your coworkers need you. Helping make changes starting in your unit is the first step to getting involved. If your hospital does not operate as shared governance, pitch the idea to your superiors; get their attention with your innovations.
Nurses need to have their voices heard; we must work our way into the administrative spectrum of the healthcare industry. We can heal a patient, we can heal the healthcare industry; We all know it is in dire need of a nurse’s touch.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN