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Oncology Nursing Society Has the Power to Shape Health Care Policy: The President’s Address

Oncology Nursing Society Has the Power to Shape Health Care Policy: The President’s Address

SAN DIEGO—Power to shape health care policy and practice was on
the minds of thousands of oncology nurses who attended the Oncology Nursing
Society’s 26th Annual Congress. Roused by their leaders and a mariachi
band marching down the aisle of the Convention Center at the opening
session, more than 5,000 nurses from around the world proclaimed in unison,
"We will be heard! We will be heard! We will be heard!"

"Power if used expertly can transform our practice," Paula
Trahan Rieger, RN, MSN, CS, AOCN, president of the Society, told the nurses
in her address.

One of the reasons nurses often feel powerless, she said, "is
because we tend to hold the traditional view of power—that it is not
shared and that managers are always powerful because they have the
information." But things are changing, and today nurses have shared
power plus access to information thanks to the Internet, said Ms. Rieger, a
cancer detection specialist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center.

She acknowledged that there is much to reinforce a feeling of
powerlessness among nurses. "In our day-to-day lives, we often feel
powerless to make changes in the system. We may feel tired, overworked, and
underpaid."

She said that "our institutions can sometimes makes us feel
powerless." Often nurses do not have a voice in how care is provided or
when decisions are made.

The health care system in general represents a significant source of
frustration to nurses, she said, "and often seems too large and
powerful an institution for us to be able to effect change."

The traditional hierarchy in health care of powerful physicians and
powerless nurses is changing, she said, "but we do still battle the old
stereotypes and hierarchies of the past. Being a largely female profession,
issues of gender and power may influence how we see ourselves and how others
perceive us."

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