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Nurse advocate exhibits nursing images at U.S. Capitol


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Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, January 25th, 2011

An exhibition of nursing photographs is on display this week at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The exhibit, Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work, is a collection by the American Journal of Nursing, which held an international contest in 2007 to find photographs that capture the important work nurses do.

The collection was first shown at New York University College of Nursing in New York City in 2007, with support from the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future, the Beatrice Renfield Foundation, and the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence. The collection has since moved around the country—you can request the exhibition for your organization—to increase awareness of the vital role of nursing.

The photos are in the nation’s Capitol this week due to the hard work of Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN, author, consultant, and tireless nursing advocate. Bartholomew sponsored the exhibition and will spend this week in the Rotunda with the photos, speaking to anyone and everyone about nursing.

Bartholomew was able to display the exhibition in the Senate building through the help of her home state U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA.

I hope people take the time to view the photos, question Bartholomew, and learn more about the role of nurses in healthcare delivery, particularly as discussions about healthcare reform reheat.

For the most part, the public doesn’t have an accurate view of what nursing involves. In the media, nurses are usually depicted as angels of mercy, or as mute handmaidens to physicians, rather than as well-educated partners in patient care and healthcare delivery.

As more emphasis is placed on patient experience and ensuring these patients report high customer satisfaction scores, it becomes ever more important that patients understand the role of the nursing professionals who care for them. This responsibility will fall largely on your nurses and nurse managers, who will be asked to explain the important role of nursing in your organization.

On each nursing unit, showcase nursing research projects, advanced degree completion, or specialty certifications earned. On a patient-by-patient basis, nurses and all caregivers must explain their role. When lying in a hospital bed, after all, it’s hard to differentiate providers’ roles when everyone wears scrubs.

We may not all have as visible a platform as the rotunda of the Senate Office Building to explain the value of nursing, but we all have our spheres of influence in our daily lives. We can all do our part to educate others about the real nature of nursing work and the importance of devoting time and resources to ensure nurses can focus on providing the high-quality patient care they want to provide to each and every patient.