Informed Nurses Are Better Advocates and Educators

For the 15th straight year, Nurses were voted to have the highest (84%) honesty and ethical standards as a profession; making them the most trusted profession. The results were published by the Gallup Poll in December 2016. This sets the bar quite high, but nurses have always risen to the occasion, and no doubt will continue to do so far into the future. One way to ensure this is for nurses to be involved in the community and to advocate for choices made for nurses and patients. Understanding the process, as well as the needs of the community and professionals, keeps nurses as that most trusted level and source of information to help them advocate for and educate patients.

In this same poll, Pharmacists ranked #2 at 67%, and Doctors #3 at 65%. Members of Congress fell to the bottom at 8% as 59% of the voters ranked them as having low to very low ethical and honesty standards. There are currently only 3 members of Congress who are nurses; Karen Bass (D-CA-33), Diane Black (R-TN-06) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30). In the past there have been others. Perhaps many more nurses should be encouraged to run for public office to help raise the honesty and ethical standards and to push forward the agendas for improving quality nursing care and patient outcomes.

Certainly it is imperative for all health care professionals to be versed and educated in what normally takes place in Washington D.C. and how legislation effects health care professions as well as patient care and outcomes. Lives depend on it. This is particularly important as the status of affordable health insurance comes under fire in the House and Senate. The ANA has made available education about the 2 bills recently considered in the House and Senate and how they potentially affect patients as well as the nursing profession. The ANA strives to keep nurses informed about health care and nursing issues being decided in Congress.

Important Legislation Under Consideration

Beyond deciding on a fair and equitable health insurance issue, Congress is charged continuously with passing bills to protect patients and help nurses do their job.  A nurse herself, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, has introduced and helped push forward the National Nurse for Public Health Act every year for the past several years. The National Nurse Act would elevate a nurse to a position equal to the Surgeon General and designate this nurse as a national leader of the nursing profession in the U.S. (Note: Currently the Surgeon General’s position is being held by a nurse, but this should not be confused with the purpose of the National Nurse for Public Health Act.)

Other legislation that comes before Congress includes the annual Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act which authorizes monies for grants and other funding to support the both the growth and education of the nursing workforce.

Another essential legislative consideration that has been considered many times is setting national nurse:patient ratios in our hospitals. The most recent Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2017 was referred to committees in both the House and Senate in May, 2017. These are identical bills which greatly affect nurses as well as patients in the quality of care and treatment as well as outcomes. It has well been established that mortality rates rise when nurse:patient ratios rise. States have taken on this issue, but nurses are focused on advocating for the establishment of national standards to improve the standards of care and outcomes for all Americans.

Nurses Are Considered the Backbone of Health Care

Nurses are often said to be the backbone of the healthcare industry. Doctors have been known to joke about how the nurses have prevented doctors from killing patients. In reality, there is much truth to that statement for many reasons.

Nurses are responsible for most of the patient education duties in all fields of health care. Challenged with 45+% of the American population being health care illiterate, nurses are expected to assist patients in understanding even the most basic aspects of seeking and complying with treatment and care. Improving patient outcomes and containing the soaring costs of health care are dependent on how well patients are educated about their own health status.

Being a nurse reaches far beyond the bedside and requires much more than just a desire to help people. By staying informed and up-to-date, you can be the best nurse you can be. The quality of care and patient outcomes depend on it. Nurses advocate for and educate patients everyday.