Nurses are valuable health care team embers: now let’s prove it!

Nurses are valuable health care team embers: now let’s prove it!

Gail Wick

“Never sell your soul because nobody can pay you back. Ever. To me, being your whole self, your true self is as much a part of success as anything else … Success is born out of what is authentic inside of you. Honor that,” says Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard (Germer, 2001). I have found myself coming back to these thoughts frequently in recent months as I ponder the nursing shortage and how to both: (a) keep our ranks motivated, and (b) attract more exemplary people into our profession. Fiorina is right. To truly succeed, one must be true to oneself. Nurses are, of course, individuals, but nursing as a whole does have success characteristics that can be promoted to claim our turf and secure our places on both the executive and front line health care teams. Once we do that, others will join our ranks.

All of us have dreams, ambitions, and our own definitions of career and life success. We all possess success characteristics. Stop and think a minute. What is your definition of personal success? Of professional success? What characteristics do you possess that will help you succeed? Are you using and promoting those characteristics? Have you set out to accomplish what you intended? Will you or have you given up? What do you want to accomplish during the remainder of your life?

Now ask yourself some more questions: Have you articulated the answer to these important questions even to yourself?. Have you dared articulate them to others? No? Well, now is the time to do so! In fact, time has run out if we are going to replenish our ranks with high quality practitioners by showing that nursing is the career of choice for successful people and the real “go-getters” in life.

Articulate Your Thoughts and Take Action!

Once you have done this, it is time to articulate your thoughts to others and take steps to accomplish what you have deemed important. There are several key thoughts to keep in mind as you proceed.

First, many people in health care work hard. Nurses do not have a monopoly on working hard. Many categories of health care workers also make a significant impact on patient outcomes. Additionally, nurses are not the only workers who care about patients or impact their overall health and well-being.

So, what makes us so special? Why should the health care system value us and give us a significant piece of the financial and respect “pie?” Whatever your response, mine is: “Oh, says you. Prove it!” Proving our value and then effectively communicating it is how we are going to win skeptics over and claim our turf. The fact is that other people are not standing around noting what we do and how well we do it. Nor are they consciously calculating our contributions to financial and clinical outcomes. The reality is that everybody in health care–our co-workers, the decision makers, executives, and payers–are focused on their own jobs and challenges, not what we are doing.

Let’s prove our worth. So what is my point? My point is that we have to generate data, sell ourselves, and promote nursing if we are to gain and retain our rightful place on the health care team.

To gain power and be successful, we have to earn it. We can do this through articulating our points so that people listen and hear, proving our worth, and making ourselves stronger and better professionals while promoting the strengths of others.

When communicating to others we must remember that health care is still a predominately male-driven business. Males, in general, do not value whining or emotionalism in the business environment. To get our points and issues heard, we will need to unemotionally lead people through the merits of our case that nurses are valuable members of the team, why they are and therefore, the need to expend valuable resources to recruit and then retain them. As Ellen Goodman, the famous newspaper columnist states, “You don’t win skeptics over by force feeding them your point of view. You have to show them how your mind is working so they can run with you” (Germer, 2001). She goes on to say that you need evidence. This points to the need for nursing research.

Methods to Promote Our Worth

Nursing research. Nursing research is key to proving our value. We desperately need research that will allow our practice to be evidence-based as well demonstrate nursing’s impact on key health care system objectives such as quality care, customer satisfaction, and financial viability. ANNA’s current research focus clearly addresses this and promotion and financial support of research is a key strategy in the coming years. This will give us the data and information we need to win over skeptics and to prove conclusively our value and worth in the big picture of health care.

Pick your moments. Goodman (Germer, 2001) also points out that you have to pick your moments and be thoughtfully and wisely tenacious because success and change do not occur overnight.

Work together as a team. Obviously, one or two of us can’t accomplish all of these objectives. Each one of us has to become stronger and then help others become stronger advocates and role models for nursing. In other words, we must share our power and success characteristics and in so doing, strengthen the profession (Germer, 2001).

The Jury Is Still Out

Will the value of nursing ultimately be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt so that even the skeptics can no longer deny us the respect we know we deserve in the health care arena? Will we ultimately claim and retain our turf? The jury is still out until we demonstrate whether we are willing to assume risk for something we say that we value.

I leave you with a thought by Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space. In reflecting on her experience in space she said, “What I cherish is all the ways it stretched and taught and grew and educated and shaped and refined me. I realized that when you step up to a challenge and are not afraid to fight, you win just because you took the challenge” (Germer, 2001).

Tim Porter O’Grady (1996) said something similar when he discussed his varied and esteemed career in nursing in a presentation to ANNA entitled “Integrating Research and Practice for Optimal Clinical Outcomes.” I like to think that this is how those of us who love our profession and our specialty will approach the challenge of claiming (and retaining) our turf. The way I see it, it is a win-win for everyone.

ANNA’s Mission

ANNA will advance nephrology nursing practice and positively influence outcomes for patients with kidney or other disease processes requiring replacement therapies through advocacy, scholarship, and excellence.


Germer, F. (2001). Hard won wisdom. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

Porter-O’Grady, T. (1996, May 5). Integrating research and practice for optimal clinical outcomes. Presentation made during the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association’s 27th National Symposium, Anaheim, CA.

Gail Wick, BSN, RN, CNN ANNA President

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