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Nurses Week: Building on Florence Nightingale's Example

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   May 08, 2018

In a recent interview with HealthLeaders, Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association in Silver Spring, Maryland, encourages nurses to continue the push for change through advocacy.

"One of the conclusions that I've made in the last several years is—I don't say this in a negative way—but we often put forward the excuse that 'I'm too busy to get involved in policy work or advocacy because I'm always busy taking care of patients,' " Cipriano says. "To me, if we really believe it's important for nurses to influence the changes in healthcare, we need to find a way to support each other and to get the people on the front lines in front of the policymakers and in front of decision-makers in our organizations."

Educating nurses

Another of Nightingale's achievements was establishing the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School. Education of nurses is still a hot topic.

Research, particularly that by Linda H. Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, has shown that having more nurses with bachelor's degrees improves patient outcomes.

In its 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) recommended 80% nurses should have at least a BSN by 2020.

While new research by Chenjuan Ma, PhD, associate professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, has found that this goal will not likely be reached within the next two years, there has been an increase in BSN-prepared frontline nurses in U.S. hospitals—57% in 2013 compared to 44% in 2004.

"From my perspective, I think it's more important to look at how much effort we have put in to increase the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees or how much progress we have made to increase the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees," she says.

Additionally, New York State became the first state to pass a law requiring new nurses to earn a bachelor's degree within 10 years of initial licensure.

Hospital planning and organization

Nightingale also had a hand in hospital design, though her Nightingale wards—one large room with multiple beds—is in direct contrast to the current move toward private patient rooms.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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