convene congress to strengthen their voice
need to change their image, journalist Suzanne Gordon stressed
Health Systems first-ever
Nursing Congress Dec. 7.
who has written several books about health care and nurses, gave
the keynote address at the meeting, held at the Rotunda. In her
remarks she railed against stereotypes and insisted nurses should
be seen as knowledge workers in the health care industry.
64-member congress, elected from among the 1,600 nurses at the
Medical Center, met to brainstorm its concerns, which will be
presented to the Nurses Cabinet in the coming year. The congress
was formed to give nurses a greater voice and foster communication
among nurses at the Medical Center.
in the issues the nurses outlined in their afternoon session were
promoting a realistic view of bedside nursing, expanding nurses
voices in budgetary and care decisions and improving communication
procedures, as well as calling for greater rewards and recognition.
her remarks, Gordon blamed the historical structure of health
care, in which nurses were allowed power and knowledge only if
they pretended they did not have it. Nurses were supposed to describe
their work altruistically, say it was a calling, not a job. She
ripped persistent advertisements, many of them commissioned by
hospitals, that refer to nurses as angels.
said there are two shortages in nursing a shortage of people
willing to work under the current conditions and people unwilling
to be nurses when there are many other career opportunities open
still consider nurses second class, thinking they are not as smart
as doctors or not willing to put in the time doctors do, she said.
need to be proactive and work to change their image with
the press, the public, the medical profession and with themselves.
sometimes sabotage themselves, according to Gordon. A nurse who
identifies herself only by her first name, or in language that
makes her sound like the property of a doctor or a hospital, is
sending the wrong message.
act like they dont have their own knowledge, like they are
borrowing it from the doctor, Gordon said.
insisted that nurses use their first and last names when introducing
themselves and she urged the nurses to call doctors by their first
names, if the doctors persist in referring to them by their first
also need to change the conditions at work, Gordon urged, including
authority to make decisions, appropriate staffing levels and case
loads, so nurses can spend more time with patients and attending
need to communicate with the public, to remind people their work
is important. Hospital public relations departments should promote
them as well, she said, to give a better picture of what nurses
perform theair jobs, nurses have to be good communicators, but
they dont tell their own stories because they are afraid
of breaching confidentiality. They could talk about their work
in general terms, but using specific details to express the difficulty
and tragedy they face daily.
deal with illness, suffering and death, she said. People
are not at their best when you see them.
gave the nurses an exercise to think about the experiences that
show what they do and how they would describe and illustrate it.
Two nurses then got up and told their stories. Once the tales
were told, Gordon and other nurses complimented and criticized
them. After the critique, Gordon urged them to hone their stories
to help explain their jobs. She said they should used terms like
consult when describing their interaction with doctors.
dont talk about what they do she said, but they should
take opportunities to explain their jobs to family and friends.
They need real rewards, like raises and social respect.