Have you wondered why nurses self-identify as being less influential than our professional colleagues? This paradigm was discussed at the most recent American Academy of Nursing (AAN) meeting and countered with a “grand challenge” to align all 4 million US nurses in a transformation from the most trusted profession...to the most influential. Yes, we should be #nurseinfluencers at every level.
For nurses, influence is the preferred word to use rather than power, according to the AAN's expert panel promoting this challenge, dubbed the “influence initiative.” What's the difference between influence and power?
Influence is the ability to affect someone or something. This may be based on your formal or informal authority, nursing knowledge, expert communication skills, or even just being in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, power has a negative connotation to most, conjuring up authoritarian images. Power synonyms are authority and command, whereas influence is sway and affect.
As nurses, and as nurse leaders, we're given the opportunity to influence every single day. If you think back on your last week at work, I'm confident you can recall multiple examples of your influence over both individuals and groups. In my last week of work before writing this editorial, I saw nurses influence compensation models, interdisciplinary care plans, quality practices, hospital policy, employee safety, and more. What about family, friends, and neighbors? I'm sure you've influenced their health in some way whether it's medication management, seeking help, or even food choices. We ARE influential! The next step for #nurseinfluencers is to take it to another level—organizational, community, societal health, and public policy. Yes, you can.
The AAN group notes that by the numbers, nurses have the edge. There's 1 nurse per 100 people in the US (an influential ratio, in my opinion) and there are more nurses than all the other healthcare professionals combined, including physicians. We represent the largest sample of women leaders in the country. The foundation is clearly there to influence largely and broadly. This certainly includes the many healthcare policy issues at the state and national levels.
But how? Multiple ideas were expressed in a Journal of Nursing Administration editorial last year on the AAN's approach to nurse influence, highlighting targeted arenas, such as policy, research, education, practice, theory, media, and industry. No small goals here. Strategies included those as “simple” as learning about influence and participating in professional organizations to sharing health messages on social media and using your voice in the community. This all ties into the Nurses on Boards initiative and relates to every nurse, not only nurses in “power.” (See “Leading for Change: Nurses on Boards” on page 14.)
An interesting twist on words was noted in the strategy list: saying “nurses and physicians” instead of “nurses and doctors.” Why? To end the confusion over the title doctor—you don't have to be a physician to have a doctoral degree.
Being #nurseinfluencers also supports the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife and Nursing Now campaigns, recognizing nurses as the healthcare professionals closest to the community. Yes, we're the most trusted and, yes, we can be the most influential, too. We owe it to our patients, our communities, and the country.