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Strengthening The Image of Nursing: One Nurse at a Time

May 23, 2014

By Diana L. Gallagher MS, RN, CWOCN, CFCN

The importance of being exposed to positive role models is critical in nurturing one’s development and growth. In nursing, it is an important element that helps move an individual along the path from novice to expert. Take a moment and think back to your experience in nursing school. If your experience was like most, you were exposed to both very positive role models that inspired you to aspire to be your BEST and sadly, a few role models that were less than positive. As a whole, my nursing faculty provided a strong example of what a nurse should be.

The Nurse as a Teacher: Role Modeling for the Future of the Nursing

The value of role modeling as a teaching tool is cited frequently in publications for both medical as well as nursing education. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to be exposed to great role models during their formal education; and sadly, not everyone serves as an example of a great role model. Nursing has lived with the shame of rumors that “nursing eats its young.” For over two decades, the incidence of “horizontal violence” has been studied and many theories proposed on why it occurs. Most new nurses and nursing students all have stories on how they did not feel embraced and encouraged in a new role but instead felt belittled and challenged.

Regardless of our role in nursing, we should each be motivated to help develop a sustainable nursing work force for the future. With the average age of nurses being closer to retirement, our motivation is not only driven by our loyalty to a dynamic profession, but the reality that we will all eventually be the recipient of nursing care. As individuals and as a profession, we have the responsibility to develop and nurture that next generation of great nurses and great nursing leaders. Developing a relationship on either side of the role model/mentor partnership is a great beginning. Another strategy is continually surrounding yourself with positive examples of nurses and nursing.

Without question, we can each cite names from nursing history that serve as examples to all generations of nurses. These brave women forged a future for nursing and established the foundation for the profession. Their stories are kept alive through books. History, however, is most memorable when it is able to be a living history, or, at the very least, an emulation of history.

On-Screen Nursing Role Models: The Must-See Television Program for All Nurses

We should each challenge ourselves to find those great examples of nursing. Ideally, those individuals may be colleagues, but if not, we still must look for examples beyond our workplace that inspire us. Unfortunately, in today’s media, there are few examples that capture the heart and soul of nursing. Like life itself, the negative examples, often get the greatest attention. We all hear news coverage about a nurse who has been caught in some unbelievable act like euthanasia. Like the general public, we shake our heads in disbelief and shame. We may review our newsletters from our state boards of nursing and realize that there are nurses whose misbehavior has earned them suspension or even a loss of their license. The negative examples are also captured in the media. Television shows and movies are populated with less than ideal examples of nursing. Who does not remember Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The only thing more rigid than her starched uniform, cap, and coif was her lack of compassion. Then for our younger peers, there are examples like Nurse Jackie, Nurse Betty and Greg Focker. Granted they each may hold some redemption, but as a whole, they are hardly stellar examples that we aspire to emulate.

We have been blessed with a new television drama that serves as a wonderful testimonial to the power of nursing and a reminder for all that nursing can be. Call The Midwife, is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series offered to us by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) that is currently airing its third season. I was introduced to this program by one of my mentors during the second season and after watching one episode, I ordered the first season. I admittedly binge-watched the series on a cold, dreary weekend. The shining example of great nursing brightened the dreary day and left me bolstered to begin anew on Monday morning.

The series is based on the true accounts of a nurse/midwife during post World War II England. The setting is the Lower End of London along the docks and amid the tenements. For those who may be reading this with no interest in maternal/child nursing, be assured that although the setting revolves around labor and delivery, all aspects of nursing are addressed. Mental illness, family dynamics, oncology, grief and loss, pediatrics, wound care, polio, caregiver fatigue, work-life balance, and the scripts keep evolving. For those of you who are fans of Downton Abbey, imagine the same high quality production centered around the lives of great nurses. Call The Midwife is historically-based, realistically portrayed and extremely well done. I encourage each of you to treat yourself with an hour immersed in all that is good about nursing. It will leave you inspired, refreshed, and ready to face another week. After your brief exposure to great role models, you too, will be ready to set the bar just a bit higher.

About the Author
Diana Gallagher has over 30 years of nursing experience with a strong focus in wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nursing. As one of the early leaders driving certification in foot care nursing, she embraces a holistic nursing model. A comprehensive, head to toe assessment is key in developing an individualized plan of care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.