Care and prepare

By James E. Mattson | 11/30/2015


I value those who care and are prepared to do something about it.


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Six months ago, I failed to slow down in time to meet the 25-mph speed limit posted for a construction zone. About the time the speedometer indicated I was in compliance, flashing red lights informed me that I should have decelerated more quickly. As the officer approached my vehicle, I took a deep breath and hoped he would just give me a warning and tell me to “take it a little slower next time.”
 
JEM_ID_embed_SFWI have been thus blessed on a few occasions, most memorably as a junior in college. It was the first week in January—I won’t mention the year, but I was driving a 1960 Chevrolet Impala convertible—and I was rushing home from my afternoon and evening job as a billing clerk for a trucking company. When all the trucks had returned from their routes, the rate clerk had assessed freight charges, and all the bills of lading had been typed—that was my job—I could go home. Unfortunately, some of the trucks had been delayed by the unaccommodating weather of a January day in northern Wisconsin, so my departure had also been delayed. When a police officer pulled me over and asked the reason for my rush, I told him I had gotten married the week before and guessed I was in a hurry to get home to my wife. He smiled, told me to “take it a little slower next time,” which, of course, I assured him I would.
 
In my more recent encounter with the law, I knew it would be futile to invoke my new-bride-at-home defense because Mary Ellen was sitting right next to me in the passenger seat, but the officer didn’t inquire about the reason for my haste. Instead, he asked if I had taken a defensive driving course in recent years. When I informed him I had not, he offered me a choice: 1) Pay a rather substantial fine or 2) register for a four-hour, online, Arizona-approved defensive driving course. The cost of the course would be about the same as the fine, but the benefit was that my transgression would not appear on my driving record.
 
It was an offer I couldn’t justifiably refuse, and it was extended so kindly that, as we parted ways, I felt compelled to thank the officer for his work. I would have preferred, of course, that he offer someone else the choice of a fine or an online course, but whether it’s a sheriff’s deputy in Pinal County, Arizona, USA, who cites me for a moving traffic violation, or a gendarme in Paris, France, who rushes toward the sound of gunfire to find the carnage of terrorism, I value those among us who dare to care and are prepared to do something about it.
 
I feel the same about nurses.
 
Dare to care and beyond
In 2002, Johnson & Johnson, as part of its “Campaign for Nursing’s Future,” debuted its “Dare to Care” television commercials during a nursing shortage then numbering 126,000 but predicted to reach a minus 400,000 by 2020. Although the campaign helped delay the pending shortfall, it hasn’t eliminated it. According to current stats cited by “The Campaign for Nursing’s Future,” nursing, while the fastest-growing occupation in the United States, now faces a shortage of 800,000 by 2020. That’s twice the shortage predicted in 2002!
 
That needs to change. Worldwide, we need more nurses, and critical to meeting that need are nurse educators—nurses who are prepared to train more nurses. We don’t have enough nurse educators, and some of those we do have may decide they’re not up to the task. That’s where the Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy (NFLA) comes in. Through this 20-month program, nurse educators with at least two years experience as full-time, non-tenured faculty members are mentored by those who have already traveled that road. Scholars are chosen through a competitive selection process, and online applications for the next academy are open until 3 January 2016.

We need more people who dare to care—people who, motivated by a caring attitude, prepare themselves and others for the work of caring, where the rubber meets the road. In their book, Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk, Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN, and Harry Jacobs Summers assert that, while caring is important, propagation of the soft side of nursing—often accompanied by angel imagery—fails to communicate the science and technical qualifications needed for nursing, thereby doing a disservice to the profession and public health. But the way I see it, caring and providing effective care are two sides of the same coin, a perspective contained in the title of the 2014 Nurses Week video, “Someone who cares: The science and art of nursing,” co-produced by Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, USA, and Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
 
Thank you, nurses, for caring, and thank you, nurses, for backing up your caring attitude with preparation and professional action. And thank you, Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, for your commitment to “advancing world health and celebrating nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service.” RNL
 
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James E. Mattson is editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
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