Like many Americans, I’ve spent the last week or so sifting through the media banter over the Obama administration’s 2012 Fiscal year budget proposal. One piece of the proposal that caught my attention was the 28% increase in funding to Title VIII, the Nursing Workforce Development Programs. This increase will help address the critical shortages plaguing the profession. I applaud the administration’s commitment to supporting nursing, a profession that not only is essential to health care delivery but also a profession that inspires women leaders in health care.
Now some may think, aren’t nurses just bedpan jockeys or physicians’ helpers. Better yet, turn on virtually any popular medical television show (Grey’s Anatomy, House) and nurses are portrayed as a male physician’s play thing or too incompetent to perform the simplest tasks. How is that inspiring?
The truth is nursing has been producing women leaders in health care for centuries. Lillian Wald was a public health nurse who played a significant role in developing the public health nursing profession and made important contributions to maternal and child health care in the United States. Clara Barton, a nurse who cared for soldiers during the Civil War, was the founder of the American Red Cross. Margaret Sanger, the founder of the National Birth Control League (now known as Planned Parenthood), was a nurse in New York before beginning her work as an advocate for women’s access to birth control.
Nursing has in fact, inspired me. Included in my nursing education, mixed in with IV starts, and vital signs, were courses on advocacy and research. I learned how to contact my political leaders and to be a patient advocate. In my career, I contribute to developing the plan of care for my patients’ and can challenge any physicians’ opinion if necessary. My voice is not subordinate because the letters behind my name are R.N or because I am a woman. On the contrary, being a nurse has given me a unique authority in health care and much like Barton or Sanger before me, working on the frontlines as a nurse has inspired to pursue a degree in public health and make even greater contributions to health care.
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With the ever changing health care landscape one thing is certain, nurses will play a significant role in leading the country through those changes. While the demographic of nurses is constantly changing, the vast majority of the profession is made up of women. Nursing will produce many of the emerging women leaders in health care. Kudos to President Obama and his administration in continuing to support the nursing profession, this is one area of the budget I can’t argue with.