Each year Nurses Week celebrates the role nurses play in delivering the highest level of quality care to patients. The National Nurses Week 2015 theme, “Ethical Practice. Quality Care,” recognizes the importance of ethics in nursing and acknowledges the strong commitment, compassion and care nurses display in their practice and profession. The theme is an important part of the American Nurses Association’s 2015 Year of Ethics outreach to promote and advocate for the health, safety and rights of nurses and patients.
Nurses are recognized by the public for upholding high ethical standards and are highly trusted as a result. An annual Gallup survey shows the public has ranked nursing as the top profession for honesty and ethical standards for 13 straight years. In 2014, 80 percent of Americans rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “very high” or “high,” 15 percentage points above any other profession.
To maintain the trust of the public, nurses are working to achieve the best outcomes for the patient in several ways, including improving the quality of care, being at the forefront of evidence- based practice, leading and disseminating nursing research, leading decisions in technology acquisition and implementation, weaving teamwork and innovation into the work of nurses, and involving nurse clinicians in decisions about their practice. Nurses are taking a leadership role in quality initiatives to improve patient safety, care coordination, and patient/family engagement. Up to 20 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted to hospitals, often because of inadequate care coordination. Medicare is now paying for certain care coordination services, recognizing that the quality of transitional care provided by nurses is crucial to reducing re-admissions. Nurses provide education, guidance and resources to individuals and/or families managing chronic conditions or an illness. Nurses help them understand discharge and care plans, medication regimens, appointment follow-ups, referrals and equipment needs.
Advances in evidence-based practice stem from the generation of ideas, the analysis of information, and the use of specialized expertise to answer questions. Accessing and staying current with the latest information on best practices to treat patients is a constant challenge for nurses. It is important for nurses to continually engage in research to develop evidencebased practices for those areas that may currently be lacking.
Technological advances make information and knowledge more accessible to nurses via handheld devices and widespread use of the electronic health record. These advances have challenged nurses to stay abreast of updates in order to improve workflow and agility. Having nurses involved in these decisions to define and design the processes to be implemented eases the challenge while continuing to provide the best patient care. Innovation and creativity are essential to making important nursing and patient improvements. Nurses are exceptionally well-positioned to lead the coordination of care and be agents of change through innovations that revolutionize care. Finding courage, questioning, networking, experimenting, analyzing and accepting change offers additional challenges to the nurses’ role.
Advances in science and technology have created new challenges for nurses and other health care providers, adding new dimensions to ethical practice. Every day, nurses continue to practice with the patient as the center of their care, meeting the challenges of an evolving healthcare environment. Thank a nurse for making a difference in the lives of so many people.