The lady with the lamp is the iconic nursing image.

And Florence Nightingale is regarded as the founder of modern nursing.

She emphasised the role of nursing as both an art and a science.

Nightingale held the view that the art of nursing is the ability of the nurse to create an environment that fosters patient healing and the restoration of health.

It is a skill that all nurses do every working day.

Modern nurses face the same challenges that Nightingale did.

She worked to improve care in hospitals and established formal education for nurses that improved patient care.

No different to what has to happen in the modern world.

Nightingale was an effective political advocate for nursing and used political acumen to establish nursing as respected and credible.

No different to what has to happen in the modern world.

Morley and Jackson argue that nurses, like Nightingale before them, need to become political activists and use their political power as advocates, to improve care in hospitals.

As advocates, nurses need to clearly articulate the value of nursing.

Caring is nursing’s most potent argument.

While nurses understand what caring means, senior managerial and political officers seem to not care about caring.

Their interest is in how many patient are seen and the fees that that generates and not in the quality of patient care.

They mouth platitudes but rarely implement the values they claim is important.

Morley and Jackson say

Nurses need a new, cohesive narrative: nursing is expert, skilled, indispensable work for patients and healthcare organisations. By emphasising the professional nature of nursing and engaging with politics, nurses can gain the power that is commensurate with being the largest healthcare profession (Yam, 2004). Nurses can speak about the complexity of nursing practice, and the essential role of nursing in patient flow, patient safety and patient experience – to anyone who will listen.

They provide ten action points that nurses should undertake to highlight the importance of nursing work.

The action points are:

  • Translate research outcomes to policy makers in ways they can use and understand

  • Galvanise public support through public engagement and formal/informal conversations

  • Ensure that research studies include a public engagement strategy as part of dissemination

  • Stand up to media portrayals of sexualised or diminutive images of nursing

  • Represent nursing as the complex, skilled work that it is

  • Connect with elected officials, professional organisations and other groups influencing healthcare delivery to share concerns

  • Write a letter to a newspaper, call in to a radio programme, tweet in response to a broadcast, offer to be on television

  • Write evidence-based policy factsheets and/or circulate the same

  • Participate in direct action, such as marches

  • Recognise the political nature of nursing work and research, and discuss these implications in publications

The modern nurse also needs to make sure that information is share with decision makers in innovative ways.

Nightingale used new ways of sharing data through her visual representations of statistics.

Using modern technology, the capacity of modern nurses to influence decision makers to do the right thing through social media, blog posts and websites is magnified because of the size of the nursing workforce.

But it is not the only way that nurses can influence decision makers.

Ultimately, the most important way nurses can influence is to be a nurse.

The same skills that nurses use to get a reluctant patient out of bed and into a shower are the same skills that are required to influence decision makers.

The same skills that nurses use to deliver bad news to a patient or significant other are the same skills that nurses can use to let decision makers know that patient care is compromised by funding changes.

The same skills that nurse use to organise themselves in their working day are the same skills that nurses can use to speak truth to power about how the health system really works.

As a nurse who has been fortunate to speak to and influence decision makers, it was my nursing skills that made me unique and effective.

You too can influence decision makers by being a nurse.

Those skills are the secret weapons that all nurses possess.

Use them.

To learn more about nurse’s secret weapon,

Morley, Georgina, and Jennifer Jackson. “Is the art of nursing dying? A call for political action.” Journal of Research in Nursing (2017): 1744987117713043.