My professional career is all about nurses—advocating for their impact in healthcare, working to improve workplace cultures and environments where nurses can thrive, and working to strengthen diversity in the nursing workforce at all levels to better reflect the communities they care for. So, for our J&J team that supports nursing, May is our Super Bowl, our Oscars night, our Met Gala. This month marks National Nurses Month, National Nurses Week (May 6-12) and International Nurses Day (today, May 12). These observance moments catalyze much-needed conversation, provide a platform to discuss successes and challenges and motivate advocates and other stakeholders to crystalize calls to action about the nursing profession.
Today, in honor of International Nurses Day, I want to highlight how nurses around the world are ready—and poised to further support—a much needed change in our healthcare systems, where they are set up and supported to care for, nurture and heal whole communities.
One aspect of the nursing profession that makes them such a powerful force in healthcare is the holistic perspective and approach to patient care that they bring. Their education, focused on providing care in a broader sense, enables many nurses to engage beyond the confines of traditional walled spaces of healthcare. Good health doesn’t start in hospitals or doctor’s offices—it begins in homes and community spaces, with a focus on prevention and education. As nurses provide care for patients and educate individuals, meeting them where they are, moving between formal healthcare settings and community and mobile health clinics, long-term care facilities, patients’ homes and schools, they are stewards of an approach to healthcare that puts the community first, aptly called community-based care.
A System Built on Trust
Community-based care makes healthcare more effective and more equitable. With a greater emphasis on providing care outside hospital walls and educating communities about how to maintain good health in ways that address their needs, community-based healthcare shifts the system to prioritize preventative care, patient empowerment and cultural competency. Nurses play a central role in this approach because of the time they spend with patients and families, building strong and trusting relationships over time.
With a foundation built on trust, nurses are often welcomed into intimate community spaces. For example, in an effort to address the health needs of Black Americans, leaders in the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) launched a program called Barbershop Health Talks. The initiative draws on the barbershop as a hub of cultural influence for Black men and creates a comfortable space where they can talk freely and ask questions about their health with NBNA members.
“With us being healthcare experts, we can reach them and talk to them in barbershops,” said Dr. Julius Johnson, nurse practitioner and president of the Greater New York City chapter of NBNA. “It opened up this gateway to talking about health in a very unique instance.”
What also makes nurses effective drivers of community-based care is their relationship with community health workers (CHWs). It begins with education—many CHWs are already trained in nursing schools. Once in the field, the two roles complement each other’s efforts. CHWs leverage their presence in, and deep understanding of the communities they serve, to connect community members who need support to nurses and beyond. Nurses work in a wide range of settings, tapping into their community knowledge and relationships to promote healthy lifestyles, provide prevention and screening services, and offer direct care. Everyone has clear roles, and they collaborate as a team to build healthier communities.
Taking on Today’s Challenges
The nursing workforce is four million strong, the most trusted profession in the U.S., and the largest workforce in healthcare. They bring an invaluable perspective to healthcare, given their education, unique hands-on patient expertise and problem-solving mindset. Yet, as we recognize the invaluable contributions nurses make to community health, we must also acknowledge the incredible challenges they face. Nurses today are experiencing incredible levels of stress and burnout, leading to turnover and vacancy rates higher than we’ve ever seen before.
Why? Too often, they deal with unhealthy work environments where they don’t feel safe, valued or supported. As a result of these and other factors, nurses are leaving the profession in droves. For the first time in 20 years, the AACN is reporting a drop in the number of applications to U.S. nursing schools, while at the same time more nurses are retiring (avg age is 52) and the need for nursing care is rising. Globally, the International Council of Nurses predicts that up to 13 million nurses will need to be added in the next few years. This is not a nursing crisis—it is indeed a healthcare crisis where the future of our healthcare system and our communities depends on our ability to address the foundational challenges that nursing profession faces, with new solutions. Nurses need and richly deserve to feel safe, valued and supported as a vital part of our healthcare workforce.
At Johnson & Johnson, we advocate for and support nurses as innovative leaders who improve human health for the better.
To achieve this, we:
- Advocate for the fundamental value of the profession, elevating and championing nurses’ impact and raising awareness of the barriers that need to be addressed to help unleash the value of the profession.
- Catalyze a workplace culture and environment in which nurses can thrive, partnering with health systems to reimagine how they support nurses, strengthening nurse leadership, and supporting their mental health and well-being.
- Strengthen the diversity of the nursing workforce and improve readiness to practice at all levels, offering scholarships, providing online resources and supporting diverse chief nursing officers and senior nurse leaders in taking on executive roles.
Community-based care is where healthcare is heading, and nurses will continue to play a primary role in making it happen. In hospitals and homes, in schools and in local businesses, the world’s nearly 30 million nurses are educating patients and families, providing information and care that saves lives, and building healthier communities. This month, and every month, we are proud to celebrate their impact, support their efforts and strengthen the future of their profession. For healthcare to work, it takes nurses.