The Value of Nursing: Expanding the Role of Nurses

imageSally Okun, who is vice president of patient advocacy, policy and patient safety for PatientsLikeMe, was the very first nurse to speak at TEDMED. She used this opportunity at the 2013 event to focus on how nurses could, and should, play a bigger role in healthcare.

It seems so often that nurses are often pigeon-holed and put into tiny little boxes. We are expected to stay put, do as we are told, and just be content with being good little nurses. We do what others don’t want to do. We get new opportunities to increase our skillset only with it’s cost-effective or is so commonplace that it is  deemed as routine (You don’t see many physicians giving injections these days).

Nurses aren’t meant to be forward thinking and innovative thinkers. We’re simply the hand maidens of the doctors we serve. We’re to only speak when spoken to and leap out of chair and offer it to any physician that might walk by.



The simple truth is that nurses could play a much bigger role in healthcare. Nurses and nurse practitioners have limitations on how they can practice that should really be reexamined.

Some of the regulations on nurse practitioners are really quite absurd. Did you now that they cannot pronounce a patient dead? I know they didn’t go to med school, but I’m pretty sure a blind sailor could pronounce somebody dead. That doesn’t require nearly the amount of skill that the powers that be would have you believe.

But on the other hand, nurses should be given extra responsibilities so save money or because it’s more convenience, Sally states “I would hate for us to think that nurses are going to be the right providers for medical care because it’s convenient. It’s because we know how to do it and they have the training and they have the expertise and they can really improve their outcomes over time.”

But what’s really important about the nursing approach to healthcare is the fact that we look at a patient and not a diagnosis. We treat the whole person and not a disease. Okun has this to say on the subject “That’s a different mindset,” she said. “Nursing – there’s a wholeness to it that healthcare doesn’t have. There are 3 million of us and we’re still siloed.”

If the country isn’t going to go bankrupt supporting the affordable care act, we are going to have to spread the weight of this load around a little. Primary care doctors are disappearing at an alarming rate while nurses are sometimes struggling to find word. We could easily bridge the gap here and meet the healthcare needs of the nation. I think Sally Okun puts it best when she states “We are the eyes and ears,” she said of nursing. “It shouldn’t be a convenience issue. It should be partnership.”

Via Med City News

What are your thoughts on the topic? Should nurses and nurse practitioners roles be expanded?

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4 thoughts on “The Value of Nursing: Expanding the Role of Nurses”

  1. Nurses like you piss me off…I’m perfectly happy being a handmaiden, just let me go to work – punch the clock (which means I’m NOT a professional) do whatever management says is my “job” this week and collect my pay. Basically I’m a lazy person, I don’t want to think for myself, just go do what I’m told, and collect a check. Working in healthcare is a great place to be … aside from a few hospital closings, there’s always positions available, even is this sucky economy !! WHAT needs to be done for nursing is spending less computer time covering our asses and more time allotted for actual patient care…thus we’d be better patient advocates. I like my little box and get tired when people like you piss on it — you want more? GO and get a management position, just leave us alone……………….

    1. eojiflots Do you really feel this way?
      You don’t want to “think”? I believe I can speak for most patients and nurses alike when I say that we wouldn’t want a nurse to care for us or work beside us if their only goal is to collect a paycheck.
      Nursing isn’t about doing what you’re told and punching a clock. It’s about being an advocate for your patients and using critical thinking to provide the best care possible. If you want a job where you ride a time clock and not have to “think” then there are plenty of them, but they certainly aren’t in nursing. 
      I am not at all saying that every nurse has to expand their role but your statements don’t reflect the type of attitude that I think anyone who works in patient care should have.

  2. I definitely think it’s important to re-evaluate any employee’s position after a period of time, and I think it would be a good idea in healthcare. From what I hear, a nursing education encompasses a wide range of knowledge, so nurses should be able to use it!

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