Try Merging Our Nursing Value/Caring Language Into One Voice?

I have always found the world of nursing to be confusing and wrought with cognitive dissonance. Here is how I put it over a decade ago, and it still rings true.

“I learned to exist in a cognitive dissonance, split between two nursing worlds. Nursing was one thing in academia and another in the practice world. I tried to make sense of this disconnect in my practice.” IJHC, 2005, p.8 

We are still traversing an uneven and ever-changing healthcare landscape in 2019.  And the healthcare industry is not going to be straightening out anytime soon.

Giving Voice to Nursing/Caring

I have been wrestling with balancing the ontological aspects of nursing/caring competencies —  one’s professional Being present skills— with the clinical technological competencies — the evidence based science Doing skills.

The basic purpose of my book, Getting Real About Caring,  is to provide a straightforward path for nurse leaders to give voice to authentic caring in everyday work settings, ie talking about nurses’ Being (authentic caring) while Doing nursing.

This is part of a long, winding road of …. nursing getting their Voice!

Value of Nursing 

No doubt, Evidenced Based Practice surged nursing’s value into the limelight by specifically articulating nurses’ contributions in the world of medical science, the hard sciences.  We can proudly say that nurses do save lives.  Honestly, this fact was not recognized by medicine at large 40 years ago and was rarely openly proclaimed. This has been confusing to me over the years.

Healthcare reform initiatives and the 2010 Future of Nursing report showcased nursing’s impact on patient care quality and costs. YEA!  This made sense to me…

Sharon Pappas provides a comprehensive review of Nursing Value; what it means and its impact on healthcare and the profession of nursing.  Her message in this and subsequent writings is that nurse leaders have a role in preserving and promoting nurses’ value … in how we optimize the patient experience and population health, and reduce healthcare costs.  This is good stuff, it’s all a part of Giving Voice to Our Value. 

“Just a Nurse”  by Suzanne Gordon 

But we are not good at giving voice to our value!

Suzanne Gordon has written multiple books on how notoriously bad nursing is in promoting itself and its value!  We nurses and nurse leaders habitually defer to “it’s just our job”.  Her writings demonstrate that we habitually fall back into virtue, a sense of duty, selfless giving and caring for others, and so on….  [Be aware, listen to yourself].

Instead, we need to articulate our knowledge, skill, wisdom, and expertise in every opportunity, in every conversation.  This is the benefit of exploration with nurses and stories with others.

Note on current trends- Even our national organizations are not putting our voice as a profession out in the limelight for advocating for gun violence reduction and humane immigration facilities and care.  Where is our national voice here?  If nurses saw and heard our professional voice more often nationally, they would learn how to use their voice more in the everyday.

The point:  We nurses do not advocate for ourselves, our value, and for what we stand for enough.

So Suzanne Gordon wrote a poem, “Just a Nurse”,  years ago to instruct us on what to say.

Use these words with your voice in everyday conversations. 

I am a nurse …  I  …

  • Make the difference between life and death
  • Have educated eyes that prevent medical errors, injuries and other catastrophes
  • Make the difference between healing, coping and despair
  • Am a researcher who helps nurses and doctors give better, safer, and more effective care
  • Am a professor of nursing who educates future generations of nurses
  • Work in a major teaching hospital managing and monitoring patients who are involved in cutting edge experimental research
  • Educate patients and families about how to maintain their health
  • Am a geriatric nurse practitioner who makes the difference between a patient staying in their home and a patient going to a nursing home
  • Am a palliative care nurse who makes the difference between a patient dying in agony and dying in comfort and with dignity
  • Am a school nurse who keeps kids healthy and in school so they can learn
  • Am the real bottom line in healthcare.

Caring Engagement Conversations

And so we come to the Nurse Leader Voice I propose in my book, Getting Real About Caring.  I advocate for nurse leaders having Caring Engagement Conversations everyday, everywhere.

The goal to escalate and embolden our Being present Voice.  The Wellness Renaissance that is happening out there all around us highlights our universal caring consciousness.  It’s our job as nurse leaders to give voice to nurses’ role by tapping into patients and deep caring needs and helping patients heal by Being present, as part of our universal caring consciousness. This is not self-sacrifice; this is human connection.

Caring engagement conversations are between nurse leaders and nurses (or anyone) about nurses’ caring experiences and the lives they physically save and help heal (through patients feeling seen and heard).

Using caring science language in everyday work settings prompts nurses to name their caring experiences and their clinical practices. By naming and claiming these experiences it validates and clarifies their clinical value and their lived authentic caring connections in real time.

These opportunities for reflection and self-discovery cultivate self-value and caring consciousness and illuminate meaning and purpose for nurses. This is nursing, and what nurses Be and Do. 

These conversations about nursing and caring thread back to Nightingale and are relevant today.

image courtesy of george neitsch from

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