Through the Process
of Change Emerges the Decade
of the Nurse
Nancy M. Valentine
Despite the clamor regarding the many contemporary challenges to the nursing profession such as the nurse shortage, stressful working conditions, and difficulties attracting young, bright people to the field, one of the paradoxes is that many are beginning to recognize that this may be the Decade of the Nurse. How can that be possible with shrinking enrollments, a shortage that is expected to rise to 500,000 fewer personnel than needed by 2012, and nurses bargaining for legislated staffing patterns?
The answer may lie in how these facts are translated to the public and how the profession is marketed to aspiring nurses and to those in practice. All of the trends mentioned are factually correct, but how might this information be received if packaged differently where there was more emphasis on the positive?
For instance, there is a real nurse shortage, but one of the reasons, often not discussed, is that there is a vibrant increase in demand for nursing talent. Having lived through the 1980s and 1990s where nurse substitution, using so-called patient-centered approaches largely failed, there is greater recognition among health care leaders and the public that the skills and talents of a nurse simply cannot be interchanged with well-meaning personnel trained on the job. As regulatory agencies have more actively addressed the patient safety