People want high quality health care services that are affordable, available around the clock, and readily accessible. What they particularly need are primary health care services. A system that provides these services is not yet available to everyone in the United States, nor will it be until we take full advantage of the knowledge and skills that nurses and nursing represent.
Nurses are the largest group of health professionals in this country. To bring the public up-to-date on what nurses can do, the profession has declared 1978 RN- The Year of the Nurse. A major objective of the "The Year" is to inform the public of what nurses are qualified to do.
Nurses with expertise about primary health care are able to deal with problems that arise throughout the life cycle. They place emphasis on wellness, on promoting patient's abilities to cope with wellness and adjust to disability, and on supporting and enhancing the patient's own strengths. Many nurses are ready and able to assume responsibility for primary health care.
The ability to provide primary health care implies the capability to recognize illness, to decide what must be done, to assume responsibility for helping people prevent illness and to maintain health. Increasing numbers of nurses are preparing themselves for such responsibility.
Nurses educated for primary health careare prepared to provide prenatal, postnatal and well child care; guidance regarding nutrition and immunizations; assistance in coping with illness and adapting to disability and old age, supervision of treatment; physical and psychological comfort for individuals of all ages; and coordination of health care services.
Nurses are also able to recognize most health problems, know when and where to refer clients for additional care, provide for continuity of care, and instruct patients and families in self-care. Nursing as a profession has defined its practice, has set standards for care, and has accepted its legal and ethical accountability to the public for the care provided.
Nurses have a working knowledge of the biological physical, social, and behavioral sciences that they apply in understanding illness and wellness. Nursing education provides the basis for life-long inquiry, study, and analysis.
Being qualified and prepared is not enough, however, says the American Nurses' Association. There must be changes in the health care system so that nurses have a voice in policymaking at the local, state, and national levels. For example, nurses, who provide a major portion of the professional care in the nation's nursing homes, are currently denied participation in the national council that is responsible for the accreditation of nursing homes.
Until nurses are recognized for what they are prepared to do and until nurses have a voice in health care policymaking, the 'public will not have the opportunity to utilize fully the nation's largest group of health providers.
The above is a suggested editorial for your local newspaper or broadcast media to utilize in conjunction with a Year of the Nurse event that you are planning. The American Nurses' Association suggests that you arrange an appointment with the editor and hand deliver the editorial to that person. This will provide an opportunity for you to discuss in depth with the editor your plans for Year of the Nurse. If you can insert a local angle in the editorial, the editor will be more apt to use it. For more information write to Ellen M. Fowler, Special Projects Associate, ANA, 2420 Pershing Rd., Kansas City, Missouri 64108.