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Nurses shining exception to public’s dim view of healthcare


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Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, May 1, 2012

Americans are having a hard time paying for their prescription drugs. They're not confident in their ability to afford health insurance. They don't trust pharmaceutical companies. They think Medicare needs an overhaul, but don't want to be the ones to foot the bill. And they think that doctors and hospitals should be paid based on quality and results, rather than the volume of care they provide.

A lot of people are pretty down on healthcare in this country. In fact, in a Gallup poll last summer the healthcare industry ranked near the bottom in terms of popularity, right around real estate and energy.  Only the federal government earned a lower standing. A recent Rasmussen poll found that only 6% of likely US voters think the performance of Congress is good or excellent.

But there's one bright spot, a group of people for whom warm feelings never seem to wane, despite the chilly climate around them.

That bright spot is nursing, which the Gallup Poll consistently ranks as the most honest and ethical profession. In fact, the latest poll shows that 84% of respondents think nurses are high or very high on the ethics and honesty scale.

My toddler-aged daughter, who was born with a spinal cord disorder, has spent more days in the hospital or doctor's office than most kids, whether it was for surgeries, ultrasounds, blood work, x-rays, MRIs, or a battery of other reasons.

Yes, doctors were the ones who performed the complicated surgeries and who swooped in and out of her hospital room for a few minutes a day with herds of interns and all the answers.

But nurses were there for me for the all other stuff, the stuff that doesn't get billed for or taught. It was a nurse who got me extra blankets when I was camped out for days on a fold-out chair next to my daughter's hospital bed. A nurse who rewarded Chloe with a pink pinwheel and strip of princess stickers after an ultrasound. A nurse who dug through her desk drawer to find a tiny white teddy bear for Chloe to take home after getting blood drawn.

It was a nurse who sang "Yellow Submarine" with me in an effort to ease some particularly uncomfortable testing. And nurses who popped into Chloe's hospital room throughout the day, not because she was their patient, but because they heard she was a really cute baby and wanted to say hi. Nurses sent us home from the hospital with stashes of extra supplies and tricks for everything from changing diapers to changing wound dressings.National Nurses Week kicks off on Friday, and the ANA's website includes a long list of ways organizations can celebrate. Among the ideas: holding a special celebration or reception to recognize a nurse or several nurses; placing articles in the local newspaper; inviting a politician to go to work with a nurse for a day; organizing free cholesterol or blood pressure screenings in the community; and hosting a candlelight vigil on National RN Recognition Day on May 6 in honor of nurses.

These are all great ideas. But hospitals shouldn't limit their recognition of nurses to just a single day or week. Nor should they only reach out the press or public or politicians once a year to tout the nurses working in their organization.

Endless debates about reform and the ever-widening gap between affordability and healthcare are making Americans sick of being sick. But through it all, nurses are still loved. Hospitals and other organizations should recognize that nurses are not only some of their best assets; they might also be just the kind of ambassador that this beleaguered industry needs.

Source: HealthLeaders Media