Popular images of nursing have long appealed to the heart, from wood engravings of Florence Nightingale holding her lamp as she makes her rounds to the World War II poster of a nurse declaring "Your Red Cross Needs You!" But what does it mean to be a nurse today? And, how will the growing shortage of nurses impact our health care?
NURSE: A World of Care, published to coincide with National Nurses Week from May 6-12, offers insight into these questions and, in magnificent photographic candor, challenges readers to think past conventional wisdom and historical roles and offers hope for the future of health care. NURSE: A World of Care, by Peter Jaret and photographs by Karen Kasmauski, with Senior Editor Marla Salmon, ScD, RN, FAAN, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and a foreword by President Jimmy Carter
"This book is a tribute to nurses," says Marla Salmon, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. "And an urgent plea. Today, at a time when nursing offers a solution to so many of the world's most pressing health care challenges, the profession that is synonymous with caring is itself in need of care."
Writer Peter Jaret and photographer Karen Kasmauski--who teamed up for National Geographic's Pulitzer Prize nominated book IMPACT--document and celebrate the vital and often invisible world of nurses around the globe. NURSE: A World of Care interweaves extraordinary photographs of the many faces and voices of nurses with five astute, hard-hitting and engaging essays on nursing's legacy, how the profession is advancing, the crucial role nursing plays in changing the face of health care, the looming crisis for all of us due to the growing shortage of nurses, and the brave new world of the future of health care and nursing.
This book is a seminal portrayal of what nursing has become in the 21st century--a profession that combines compassion, advanced practice, research, a long history, and a rich vein of philosophy--and it places nursing firmly in the national dialogue on health care.
Crisscrossing the planet from a small town in Texas to Kingston, Jamaica, from Kenya to Venezuela, and from Japan to Atlanta, Georgia, NURSE: A World of Care illustrates that by providing even the most basic care, nurses can create order and a sense of community, even in the most extreme and violent settings. A village nurse in Sri Lanka walks miles to bring medicine to a remote outpost hit by cholera. A public health nurse in Alaska lives out of a sleeping bag in order to reach her patients. A critical-care nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit takes a moment on a busy evening to hold a tiny, premature baby. A helicopter sweeps into the air as a military nurse gives a seriously wounded soldier a blood transfusion. A Thai hospice nurse comforts and cares for AIDS patients. In the hills of Appalachia, a nurse midwife drives miles in the dark to assist in the birth of a young couple's first child.
The Crisis in Nursing
Jaret reports that with health care costs rising in the developing world and the most basic primary care in some of the poorest parts of the world beginning to break down, nurses often represent the slender thread that keeps health care delivery from unraveling completely. Yet many nations are failing to attract, educate, and support the nurses they need. At the same time, nurses are leaving the profession so that rural clinics and state-of-the-art hospitals alike are dangerously understaffed. In addition, fewer women are joining the profession in favor of other, more lucrative jobs, and nursing continues to struggle to grow the ranks of male nurses. (While in the United States, the overall number of registered nurses is increasing, it is still not enough to meet the demands of population growth and aging baby boomers.)
In the world's prosperous nations, the soaring cost of advanced medicine has begun to exact a crippling strain on budgets. High-tech medicine saves lives, but it also has led to impersonal health care systems that leave many patients feeling confused and sometimes abandoned. The result is a crisis in nursing that both parallels and is part of the larger crisis in health care around the world--a crisis that increasingly threatens to reverse many of the advances that medicine and public health have achieved in recent years.
While there are encouraging signs of a resurgence of interest in the profession of nursing among young people, NURSE: A World of Care reveals that many will be unable to pursue that dream. Even as hospitals scramble to fill vacant nursing positions and many health clinics struggle to maintain adequate nursing staff levels, nursing schools are turning away qualified applicants. There is a faculty shortage, lack of clinical and classroom space, and budget constraints.
Rising to the Challenge According to NURSE: A World of Care, the good news is that nursing itself is rising to the challenge. Innovative programs, many of them created by nurses, offer solutions to some of the most pressing problems. For example:
- The International Council of Nurses has created an international disaster response network, ready at a moment's notice to respond to health crises or disasters wherever they strike.
- Nurses are beginning to be represented in the top ranks of the World Health Organization and other non-governmental organizations around the world.
- Nurses are serving in roles that traditionally had been the exclusive domain of physicians, such as in the ranks of ministers of health and other key policy positions in both the developed and developing world.
- Nurses are moving forward in scientific circles, where they are advancing care through research from the bench to the bedside.
Today, nurses are pursuing business and management degrees in order to take leading roles in running health care companies and organizations. There are nurse-attorneys with legal degrees specializing in health care law and policy. They are becoming entrepreneurs and creating a wide range of nursing-related companies, from publishing to medical equipment design.
A Crucial Role
Throughout the book, Jaret and Kasmauski show that nurses are the gaskets that allow all the complex parts of the medical machinery to function together smoothly. They further describe how the nurse's role is likely to become even more challenging as medicine extends its ability to diagnose subtypes of diseases--each with its own characteristics--and as treatment regimens become more complex. NURSE: A World of Care provides ample evidence that nursing is paramount to saving lives, lowering the risk of medical errors, and improving the quality of care and well-being of patients. And it powerfully argues that nursing is critical to health care delivery in every corner of the world.
Proceeds from the sale of this book contribute to the international nurse scholarship at Emory University. NURSE: A World of Care (Emory University / ISBN: 978-0-9814565-0-8 / $29.95 / Full color).
Laura Reynolds, Reynolds Public Relations, Inc.
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Ashante Dobbs, Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing, Emory University
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Leslie Flowers, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing
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