The science art and craft of nursing and the nurse itself touch and have touched lives almost wherever they have lived over the ages. Nurses are usually women and in number they are usually more in number than other counterparts who participate in the practice of medicine. The history of nursing is uniquely placed to contribute to the history of health and that of women. Yet, nursing as a profession and its various, aspects have received scant attention from historians of medicine and health and until more recently, from feminist historians.
Nurses rarely emerge in accounts of pioneering medicine and are awarded little space in the history of hospitals itself. For all traditional aims and purposes, the history of nursing and its leaders has been overshadowed, dominated and swamped by the iconic figure of Florence Nightingale. The nursing profession is in the midst of a national nursing shortage. Researchers estimate that by the year 2020, the available registered nurse workforce will fall 20% below projected requirements (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2000). While the shortage affects nurses in direct patient care positions, the inadequate supply of nurses to meet the growing care demands of an aging population will also affect the availability of qualified nurse managers.
The nursing shortage literature extensively explores the staff nurse and direct caregiver perspective, but limited literature is available to explain the growing shortage of nurse managers. Given that nurse managers play an integral role in creating the work environment, a potential shortage of capable nurse managers poses a further threat to recruiting and retaining staff nurses in the profession. The Numbers and BackgroundThe existing strength of nursing leadership around the world in general and in the US in particular has been compared to that of an elephant in captivity that is made to slowly but surely forget the strength of his own power.
The idea behind this comparison is simple. Over the years, behind the façade of increasing the importance of supervised nursing the overall significance of a well developed team of nursing leaders and faculty that could train the future nurses and help them evolve as better leaders has gone down several notches. Metaphorically speaking, there have been issues such as the class system and the cultural values that have served the purpose of the rope and tree tethering the vocation.
These have again been operational simultaneously for the slow but steady incapacitation of a work force that needs to be powerful for the healthcare system to achieve any level of normalcy and efficiency of work. Nursing LeadersThe role of the nurse leader has evolved dramatically over the past decade. Yesterday’s super clinician and manager of managers has become today’s organization executive with responsibility for most of the facility’s staff and a majority of the operating budget.
Historically, nurse leaders have come to management by first proving themselves as clinical experts. The most important prerequisite for becoming a manager was being in the right place at the right time. Getting on the management track was by chance, not by choice. The job prerequisites and on the job requirements of an advanced degree and an emphasis on business and financial acumen are now more in line with other health care executive team members. This two track requirement of clinical and business expertise creates a level of complexity in the clinical executive role that adds to the years of experience necessary in becoming a proven, tested leader.
In order to ensure a reliable nurse leader candidate pool, health care organizations must be more strategic than ever in planning for the future of nursing practice and the talents necessary for the organization to survive. There are also those that opine that nursing leadership has been incapacitated by the managerial circumstance in which it finds itself there is a constant need for the update of professionals and the body of people capable enough to take up the leadership role for the overall industry to have a surviving chance.
There are those that are of the opinion that in order to get back the strength that was once the character of nursing leaders is to analyse the operational, structural, and functional realms of leadership in the arena.