1. Section Editor(s): Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

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Once again, in honor of National Nurses Week (May 6-12), the Organizational Affiliates of the American Nurses Association are dedicating our spring editorials and membership letters to one topic- "The Future of Nursing Initiative." For myself, I'd like to congratulate all my nurse colleagues. While I appreciate who nurses are and what great work they do all year long, I wish to offer special recognition for National Nurses Week.

Mary Alexander, MA, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowMary Alexander, MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN INS Chief Executive Officer

Last October, after 2 years of study, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a landmark report: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and led by a committee of nationally renowned experts from nursing, medicine, and other disciplines, the report concluded that nurses must take a greater leadership role in the delivery of health care and development of health care policy.1


As an experienced nurse, I strongly agree with the report's conclusion. I know that nurses are knowledgeable, innovative, resourceful problem solvers, capable of leading health care professionals while guiding the health care delivery system into the future. Although the report confirms what I and many other nurses know, there are still many hospital administrators, academics, and, yes, physicians, who cling to an obsolete image of nurses as "helpers," and they need to update their thinking.


But, we have the advantage of public support. Last year was the 11th year that nurses were voted the most trusted profession in America, according to the Gallup's annual survey that ranks professions for their honesty and ethical standards. Eighty-one percent of Americans believe nurses' honesty and ethical standards are either "high" or "very high."2 Because the public has such high regard for our profession, we are well positioned to meet the challenge of taking a major role in the transformation of the health care system.


First, however, we have to take responsibility for our own professional development. More of us must pursue advanced education, attend professional meetings, or study to earn certification. We should become regular readers of more than 1 nursing journal and join a local association chapter to share knowledge and learn from colleagues. Lifelong learning is critical to obtaining positions of leadership.


Get more involved in workplace improvement efforts and research. (Read the articles in this issue of the Journal on research and evidence-based practice for help in getting started.) Join policy committees, participate in work force planning surveys, data collection, and research projects. Help design and implement improved care environments and new ways to provide patient-centered care. No group knows what patients want and need better than nurses.


Professional nurses' associations offer many of the tools you need to help you become an educated nurse leader. INS, for example, provides educational meetings, webinars, publications such as this journal, health care policy information, and much more.


You can develop leadership skills by becoming actively involved in your professional association. Most associations provide mentors to help guide you up the leadership ladder. As you develop competence and confidence, you will learn to share your expertise in the wider arenas of health care policy and delivery.


As we look to the future of health care, let's ensure that nurses are key members of all leadership teams. In collaboration with other health care professionals, our input will be invaluable as we transform a delivery system to better serve our patients.




1. National Institute of Medicine (IOM). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Published October 2010. Accessed March 7, 2011. [Context Link]


2. Jones J. Nurses top honesty and ethics list for 11th year. Published December 3, 2010. Accessed March 7, 2011. [Context Link]