1. Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR

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Well, here we are, about to celebrate another Nurses' Week. Not all professions have their own dedicated week in the calendar!! More than ever, it's essential for us to tell others about our profession, for the media continues to misrepresent us in every medium. Have you seen the offensive story line on ER about that nurse who is now becoming a doctor? Have you written a letter to complain to the network and to the sponsors about their message of nursing being the "second choice" profession to medicine? I hope you have. Especially in this time of nursing shortage, how dare those writers perpetuate the old-fashioned notion that nurses are only nurses because they couldn't become doctors? If they don't understand what nursing is, and why it is a valuable and noble career choice, then it is our duty to educate them.


We have much to be proud of during this Nurses' Week.


Just before Christmas 2003 I attended a conference about nursing work environments, and it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. This interdisciplinary conference presented the most current research about how nurses work, how they feel about their workplace, how hospitals can improve the workplace environment, and the difference the workplace environment makes in patient safety and nurse retention. One constant theme ran through the conference: Hospitals are Nursing Institutions. What a great statement that is. Read it again. Hospitals are Nursing Institutions. All the speakers (not all nurses!!) emphasized that hospitals are the places where people go to receive expert nursing care. They all agreed that it is the nursing staff that provides the 24-hour-a-day care patients require, and it is the nursing staff that must be nurtured and protected. I know, this is new thinking. This might not be the value system you face every day in your institution. You might be working in a hospital or agency that was infected by the nurse-bashing 1990s. You might be in a place that employed those-yes, I'll say it-hateful and wrongheaded consultants who told your hospital to cut the nursing staff to save money. Consultants who had absolutely no evidence to back up their suggestions, and who examined only the bottom line, overlooking entirely the value of nursing care to the institutions and the patients who use the institution. Consultants who devastated hospitals and nurses, cutting jobs and possibly leading to increased mortality and morbidity in the patient population. Consultants who convinced the business people on hospital boards that nursing was expendable. Consultants who were wrong. Totally wrong. I'm happy to say that the tide of change is upon us. Hospitals are changing because nurses have shown through research how valuable nursing care is to patient safety. Hospitals are also changing because the nursing shortage has helped them to finally realize that they cannot function properly without nurses. Imagine that!! We've always known that nurses were the heart of hospitals, and now nurse researchers are proving that it is nursing, after all, that makes the difference in patient safety. If you haven't read Dr. Linda Aiken's research in this regard, I urge you to do so (see references). Dr. Aiken can be credited with much of the change in the attitude of hospitals about nursing, because she has made it her quest to demonstrate through research the effects of nursing care on patients in hospitals. Her studies have been published in the most prestigious journals, and have made front page headlines in all the major newspapers. Her studies show that patients in hospitals need expert nursing care in order to avoid complications. She has described nurses as the "surveillance" experts in patient care. Nurses catch complications before they even occur, and make all the difference in patient safety. Her speech at that conference was more than inspiring about the power of nursing. She has furnished proof that hospitals must listen to. Proof that cutting nursing care is a foolish way to try and save money. Proof that cutting nursing care hurts patients. Hospitals can't argue with that. Hospitals are beginning to learn that what they are, really, are Nursing Institutions.




Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Cheung, R. B., Sloane, D. M., & Silber, J. H. (2003). Educational levels of hospital nurses and surgical patient mortality. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 (12), 1617-1623.


Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J., & Silber, J. H. (2002). Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288 (16), 1987-1993.


Vahey, D. C., Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., Clarke, S. P., & Vargas, D. (2004). Nurse burnout and patient satisfaction. Medical Care, 42 (2), II-II5766.