Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine how nursing is viewed by the nation's decision makers and opinion leaders.
Background: Nurses comprise the largest subgroup of the health and healthcare workforce. The public recognizes nurses' contributions, consistently ranking them highest in honesty and ethics. Yet, significant barriers remain in nurses achieving substantial leadership positions in health and healthcare delivery and policy.
Methods: The study sampled a broad cross section of American opinion leaders in the public and private sector, academia, and trade organizations. More than 1,500 opinion leaders were interviewed by telephone interviewers.
Results: The opinion leaders viewed government (75%) and health insurance executives (56%) as the groups most likely to exert a great deal of influence on health reform, compared with 14% for nurses. Government respondents were significantly different than all other respondents; 23% of these respondents said nurses have a great deal of influence in healthcare reform, compared with 14% of other individuals.
Conclusion: Although nurses are viewed as knowledgeable sources of health information, nurses are not viewed as leaders in the development of healthcare systems and delivery. The opinion leaders' survey identifies barriers to nurses assuming a greater leadership role, including management skills and knowledge.