Pick Up That RN Flag and Wave It
A nurse who has written a book for
the general public tells me that she has had to work hard just to
get her RN title printed with her name and credentials on the
cover. The publisher wanted her to use only PhD and
not RN, PhD. She is not sure why they wanted to do
this, but my friend is a crusader for improving the image the
public has of nurses and nursing. She understood how important it
would be to let the public know that a smart, savvy, skilled
nurse had done the research and written this book. So she
persisted and insisted until she was heard. And now the RN waves
like a proud flag after her name on the jacket of her book.
But the struggle is not over. When
she goes on publicity tours to market the book, she has been
dismayed to find that people who interview her for radio, TV,
newspaper, and magazine stories are not interested in learning
about her nursing background. Again, she knows how important it
is for our profession that the media acknowledge her as an RN,
and at every interview she proudly and emphatically makes the
point that she was able to write her book because of her career
In a similar vein, an important
new research study conducted by nurses was recently featured in JAMA. One of its major findings that the
number of RNs in a hospital makes a difference in whether a
surgical patient lives or dies (see JAMA Study Reports Critical Consequences of Staffing
Ratios, November 4, 2002, at www.nursingspectrum.com) is
resonating and making waves in the field of healthcare and will
no doubt influence the way others view hospitals and nursing for
years to come. These nurse researchers can make us all proud, not
only for the study they did to show the worth of the work nurses
do, or the fact that nursing research was published in a
prestigious medical journal, but because all the nurses in this
study had the title RN printed after their names and credentials.
In a sense, these high-profile
nurses are waving the flag of nursing to show others outside the
profession who todays nurses are and what nurses can do.
Sadly, this isnt always the case.
Unfortunately for us, another
recent research study important enough to make the evening
news was published in a medical journal and written by
nurses who were not identified as RNs. The press releases and the
byline for this article listed the MD after the physicians
names but only PhD after the nurse researchers names. That
same week, there was a press conference in Washington, DC, that
introduced an important healthcare initiative in which the
spokesperson for the group didnt reveal during the
interview or on any of the printed material that she was a nurse.
For whatever reason, she referred to herself only as doctor.
Im not sure why these
contributors werent identified as nurses, but I was
disappointed to learn that the RN title was silent and invisible
in both these instances. These would have been superb chances to
publicize the contributions that nurses make and how nurses are
changing the face of healthcare.
Were all proud when one of
our own is out in front leading the way in some area of the
healthcare field and telling the world what some of the best and
brightest in our profession are doing. It promotes the image of
nursing and boosts the morale of the rest of us, and we all
benefit from the reflected glory that any of our nurse colleagues
But each of us carries our own RN
flag tacked onto the back of our name, and just like the
nurses mentioned above each of us has the opportunity to
wave it. We can start by telling others that our nursing
education and experience give us knowledge and expertise that can
profoundly influence the health of our patients. If our patients
lives are improved or saved because of our RN judgement and
skill, we need to be less humble and self-effacing and claim that
what we know and did made the difference. Why not add intelligent,
knowledgeable, competent, and capable to our virtuous
caregiver image and insist that we be recognized for our everyday
nursing accomplishments, just as my friend who wrote the book and
the RNs from the JAMA study have done?
At this time, when were
trying to change nursings image and entice others to join
us or to remain in our ranks, its never been more important
for us to shout it to the world that we are nurses smart,
savvy, and skilled and that what we do and know matters.
Youve earned that RN flag. Now is the time to wave it.
Pam Meredith, RN, NP,
Editorial Director, pmeredith@ nursingspectrum.com