NEW YORK NURSE: October 2011
by Carol Lynn Esposito, JD, MS, RN, Director, NYSNA Labor Education
Nursing is in the midst of change. Over the past decade, the delivery of health care has become more population-based, more ethnically and culturally diverse, more saturated with information, more interconnected through technology, but most importantly, more focused on the “bottom line.” These realities require nurses to come to the understanding that change is the only constant in our healthcare delivery system.
And to lead change, nurses need to understand how to shape two of the most important determinants of human health, namely health policy and advocacy. Have you wondered who is responsible for shaping health policy? Have you thought that shaping health policy is outside the responsibilities of our professional roles? Do you think there is a need for nurses to develop the skills necessary to shape health policy and to engage in advocacy, in political, social, and workplace actions?
I believe the concepts of social justice espoused in our three national nursing documents (Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, Nursing’s Social Policy Statement, and Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice) require nurses to be accountable to both patients and the larger healthcare system. The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2001) directs nurses to act to change those aspects of social structures that detract from the health and well-being of the individual patient, as well as for the good of the individual nurse. Thus, I believe the nurses’ obligation is to self, to the patient, and to the profession. Nurses must act as transformational leaders, advocating for systemic improvements beyond serving the present patient, and engaging in political and advocacy activities that bring about social and workplace change, thereby insuring that quality health care is enjoyed as both a fundamental human right and privilege by all members of our society.
As a registered professional nurse, attorney, and director of Labor Education for NYSNA, I am honored to be working with our experts and faculty who design, develop, implement and evaluate more than 125 continuing educational programs for nurses and healthcare professional practitioners in the areas of labor and employment law, and occupational safety and health law. We offer courses, covering topics including contemporary legal issues in healthcare, collective bargaining, leadership skills, ethics, policy and politics in nursing, communications in nursing and violence in the healthcare setting.
Leaders initiate power, guide action, and the result is change. The product of change is a new character or direction that otherwise would never be. The Code of Ethics and our educational offerings can provide nurses with the knowledge and skills to exercise a type of leadership that is supportive of participating in advocacy, including concerted activity, as a means of accomplishing change and moving in a direction of healthcare reform that otherwise would never be.
Find a list of upcoming workshops on NYSNA’s website at: nysna.org.ce/workshops.html