If the public doesn’t understand what nurses do, then nursing priorities do not get resources allocated. Bartholomew cited the proposed reductions of the nursing workforce development programs and health professions funding by 29% over fiscal year 2010, which are before Congress. These resources are desperately needed to ease the chronic faculty shortage in nursing schools and to open more spaces to educate students so that we have enough nurses to meet the looming nurse shortfall created by the inevitable aging baby boomers.
“Clearly the general public doesn’t know what nurses do,” says Bartholomew. “It’s easy to understand why for two reasons. One, we don’t tell them. Nurses don’t sit around bragging about how they saved someone’s life or intercepted a potential physician error or broke the news to a mother that her baby was not going to live. We don’t talk about these things amongst ourselves, let alone the general public. And the second reason is because of the obvious mis-portrayal of nurses in the media.”
When a profession is misunderstood and undervalued, it does not reach its potential. In the era of healthcare reform, we need nurses—fully-engaged, well-educated, skilled professionals with vigilant observational and critical thinking skills—to meet the needs of our patients.