Advocating for Patients…and Nurses!

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As the president of the NJ Chapter of the National Speakers Association (, I was recently asked to speak at a local Kiwanis International club meeting. I suggested speaking on the popular topic of public speaking but the event host said the members didn’t do any public speaking and asked if I would speak about nursing. I was happy to oblige.

During my 15-minute presentation, I told the audience a little about my nursing career and then addressed the current nursing shortage, which has been widely publicized. I informed the group about current trends such as more men coming into nursing and all the second careerists coming into the profession from other occupations. I mentioned the fact that most schools of nursing had long waiting lists and underscored that nursing was a great profession with many diverse opportunities. I ended by discussing nurse to patient ratios, what more RNs in the hospital mean to patient care and outcomes, and encouraged audience members to ask their primary care providers as well as hospital administrators when they or their loved ones are hospitalized (beforehand if possible), what the ratios are in that facility. I advised them of recommended ratios so they would know what is ideal. This was, of course, a way to help them advocate for themselves and their loved ones, to underscore the vital role that nurses play in the healthcare setting, and to promote the profession. The more informed consumers of healthcare are about the shortage and ideal staffing ratios, the better it is for them and nurses!

While my original intention when accepting the speaking engagement was not to directly promote nursing (I am always at least ‘indirectly’ promoting nursing) the experience reminded me of one of my ethical obligations as a nurse as outlined in the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses, to serve the broader community, including being a public health advocate and promoting the profession in public venues. If you’ve never read the ANA Code of Ethics or haven’t read the current edition, it’s worth checking out at It is a wonderful reminder of the role and responsibilities that come with being a nurse.

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