Nursing has a ways to go in articulating its value, but I am not disheartened.
I recently attended a meeting of global nurse leaders convened by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Several speakers touched on the topic of equity, a concept all too often confused with equality. Sharing something equally does not mean that this distribution is equitable.
For instance, a person paid $20 an hour in San Francisco cannot support a family above the poverty level whereas the same salary—$20 an hour—would make life bearable in other parts of the country where the cost of living is less. Do both individuals make an equal amount of dollars? Yes. Is their buying power the same? No. This is a very simple example of equality that is not equitable.
This kind of inequity plays itself out in healthcare across the globe every day. Because variables that complicate this reality are as numerous as the stars in the sky, I will limit myself here to three observations.
Nursing innovation is often co-opted or outright appropriated by other disciplines. That statement is based on years of personal observation. As a service profession, nursing often does not step up and take credit when credit is due. When simple recognition is not given—never mind monetary reward—value created is co-opted or wrongly acknowledged. When it comes to innovation, could nursing be the source of its own inequitable treatment?
Nursing has only recently begun to be represented in a manner that impacts equitable allocation of healthcare resources. Initiatives are underway in many countries to place nurses on governing boards of healthcare providers and consumer organizations. Imagine if nursing was equitably represented on these boards in proportion to the population nursing serves and the healthcare spending it influences. Keep in mind that nurses and midwives make up 87 percent of the global healthcare workforce. To have an equitable voice at the table and articulate its value, nursing needs to communicate in the language of business. We have a ways to go.
I am not disheartened by these realities or the challenges that lie ahead for nurses in improving global health—quite the opposite. Nurses who are out in the world advancing global health inspire me! At a meeting in Washington, D.C. recently, I had the honor of meeting leaders who represent these nurses, and the foundation for nursing equity that these leaders are laying on behalf of nurses around the world will result in greater healthcare equity for the populations they serve.
Kenneth W. Dion, PhD, MSN/MBA, RN, founder of Decision Critical, Inc., is treasurer of the board of directors of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. He is past president of the board of trustees of the Foundation of the National Student Nurses' Association and past chair of the board of directors of Sigma Theta Tau International Foundation for Nursing.