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Empowering Our Nurses

How Nurses Create Opportunity Through Adversity


The last few years have shed light on the impact nurses possess in healthcare. Our profession now has an opportunity to reinvent ourselves to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Just as death and taxes are an unavoidable part of life, so is adversity. We have all faced a magnitude of adversity these last few years that no one could ever have anticipated. As we continue in our lives, adversity will always play a role in that experience. Adversity is an experience that many of us would ideally like to fast-forward; however, it does not need to be a negative experience. 

One can argue that it has provided us with an opportunity for growth and development. We, as a profession, chose to face adversity head-on. The challenges we have met have gained us valuable experiences and leveraged our strengths to find value we would have never thought possible.

If these last few years have taught anything to the healthcare industry, it’s that the most valuable asset of healthcare is the personnel — and the largest sector of that personnel is the nursing workforce. We as leaders must reimagine the future of what the healthcare team structure looks like to be sustainable for the 21st century. This review includes a global look at the roles and responsibilities of nursing to execute comprehensive care while also being fiscally responsible. The healthcare team structure of the past is not sustainable for the future.

Defying traditional gender roles

The current environment of our profession must evolve to realize the future we desire for inclusivity. Traditional gender roles have shaped nursing for over the past 150 years. Barriers based on traditional norms are not exclusive to nursing. Over time, many professions have found the benefit of breaking down long-standing conventional role norms. Business, medicine, engineering, and law enforcement are only a few examples that have broken traditional image perceptions of the public and have successfully recruited based on skills and character capacity and not by demographic descriptors. For the nursing culture to evolve, we must first focus on developing a renewed professional climate.

To evolve the current deeply held values, beliefs, assumptions, and rituals of nursing culture, recurring patterns of behavior, attitudes, and feelings that characterize the climate in our profession have to change. More simply put, we must change the perception of who a nurse is to the public. 

We must emphasize what defines a nurse, not just the imagery you see in a magazine or TV show. We as a profession must understand that compassion, empathy, and caring can manifest in so many diverse ways, and our patient’s expectations of the delivery of those actions are just as diverse. We must seek parity in the profession and not equality in numbers to meet this challenge. 

Seeking parity based on how our workforce reflects the local communities we serve, not a specific threshold percentage of each gender, race, or ethnicity, is the benefit our communities are looking for from our industry. The percentages will be supportive outcomes of our success, not hollow goals of the journey expecting a different culture only because a different volume of individuals exists. We should stop solely focusing on percentages and work on changing the image of nursing so that anyone can see a reflection of themselves in their caregiver. 

We must also create the climate to provide an equal opportunity so anyone can become a nurse if she/he/they possess the passion, commitment, competency, and capacity to serve others. When you see yourself in the one you aspire to, it becomes the most powerful recruitment tool. If we work with a genuine unity of purpose, we will make the impossible possible for anyone and everyone who aspires to do something bigger than themselves.

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