SAN DIEGOPower 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 powerthat 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."