by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Violence against nurses, an ongoing debate on health care reform and the future of the nursing profession.
American Nurses Association President Pam Cipriano PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN sat down with Oklahoma’s Nursing Times to discuss these issues recently at the Oklahoma Nurses Association annual convention.
NT: How should nurses use their voice right now in the current health care debate?
Cipriano: It’s really important we educate people around us as well as educate our elected officials. That means stepping out and not being afraid to write letters, email, text our elected officials to explain to them how we believe it’s important to promote access to care. We need to give them the stories of people nurses see every day. To be able to say when a woman comes in and she’s been afraid to come in for care because she can’t afford to pay for it and we find she’s foregone important screenings and now has a devastating illness or a cancer that is gut-wrenching not just for the person but for the healthcare professionals.
It’s important that we recognize while people are fighting the political battles real people’s lives are at stake.
NT: When you saw the video of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels arrested for advocating for her patient what went through your mind?
Cipriano: My very first thought was ‘you go girl.’ She was doing exactly the right thing. She was advocating for her patient. She also had the wherewithal to make those around her know she was being mistreated and it was clear she was calling the chain of command. She was doing everything right so my first inclination was – that is what nurses do. They do the right thing. They stand up for their patients and they don’t let anybody get in the way. And they sometimes put themselves in jeopardy. Obviously, I wouldn’t have wanted anything bad to happen to her but I think I had the confidence it would get sorted out and justice and common sense would prevail. But again I was so proud of her in the moment that she didn’t have to think twice. She acted with her ethical duty and was completely in the right.
NT: What do you see as the nurse’s role moving forward in health care.
Cipriano: The good thing about nurses is they are able to work in so many different areas. Nurses are able to make adjustments wherever health care goes whether it’s moving from the hospital to home and community settings or continue the work we do in high tech settings. We can make sure care transitions are handled appropriately and we have mechanisms to keep older people at home while monitoring their care and working with their family members. I continue to see nurses as absolutely critical because they have the flexibility and the knowledge to know we have to change with the times.
NT: What advice would you give to new nurses to further the profession as a whole?
Cipriano: The first piece of advice would be don’t let people tell you no. One of the unfortunate things I hear from new graduates is there is still a tendency that the people who are more senior want them to pay their dues and not want them to emerge quickly into leadership roles and that has got to change. We need all of our new talent to be respected for what they bring to the health care setting. Every voice is important and most new entrants recognize they are still learning but at the same time they have new perspectives, represent embracing of new trends so we can all benefit from what’s called reverse mentoring.
NT: Is health care a right or a privilege?
Cipriano: I believe it’s a right. When you look at what’s happening globally is most countries of the world have recognized health care as a right.
NT: Locally, what do you like about what the Oklahoma Nurses Association is doing?
Cipriano: There has been a great effort to embrace native populations which is very important as well as understanding the challenges of living in both a rural and urban state. Plus keeping up the conversation of differing political persuasion is important. When you look across the country we have so many states that are polarized but many of the health care issues may not be aligned with the current groups that are in power. It requires an ongoing tenacity to say ‘I’m going to continue to talk to you about what’s important in health care because I’m a nurse and I’m an expert.’ It does require that additional effort and the ONA has demonstrated that.