Michael Hager, RN, NREMT-P
Nevada State College
NU 408 Transitions in Professional Nursing
Linda Jacobson, MSN, RN, PHN, COI
Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon have written a sentinel work for nursing that addresses the misrepresentation or absence of nursing in the media and the public consciousness. This book is more than a call to arms for nurse activism. From Silence to Voice is an instructional aid for shaping dialogue to disseminate an effective message. With the current state of healthcare, nursing needs this manual more than ever to shape the direction of nursing policy and perception. Keywords: nursing, media, healthcare policy, public opinion, communication in nursing
From Silence to Voice, A Book Report
Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon are renowned journalists, lecturers, and authors. The book details how the two women became involved with nursing advocacy in 1989 through a project sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust. The program sought to investigate public perception of nursing and to cultivate a positive nursing image with the use of the news media. Buresh & Gordon found that despite nursing being the largest healthcare profession, they are also grossly underrepresented and misunderstood (Buresh & Gordon, 2006). Their pivotal co-authored book, From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public, explains the lack of public representation concerning professional presence. The book further outlines how to make nursing’s voice heard through effective communication.
The problem begins with public perception. Buresh & Gordon point out a fundamental disconnect. The public trusts and respects nurses as caregivers but does not understand the professional standard or practice of nursing (Buresh & Gordon, 2006). Buresh & Gordon movingly quote Joan Lynaugh, nurse historian, “Most people know they can’t get into a hospital without a doctor. What they don’t know is that they won’t get out of one--at least not alive--without a nurse.” (Buresh & Gordon, 2006). The public gets its information from sensationalized news media and television. The public sees a nurse as someone who holds hands and helps people to the bathroom. While this is an important part of nursing, the public does not realize the assessments, technical expertise, and knowledge base required to make nursing care happen.
The “silence” that Buresh & Gordon write of, refers to the absence of nurse representation in molding public perception of nursing and nursing agenda. The authors support a strong and legitimate “voice” by nurses, to impart positive change for patients using clinical knowledge (Buresh & Gordon, 2006). Nurses can best advance public knowledge by effective use of the news media. A dialogue must be created with media sources keeping in mind a reporters agenda and interests. As Buresh & Gordon explain, information must be presented to the media as currently relevant, credible, with easy to use source information (2006). The information must be personally appealing yet emphasize the knowledge of nursing.
When a certain knowledge and expertise is relayed to the public a common sign of nursing depreciation is the age old question, “Why did someone as smart as you become a nurse instead of a doctor?” Buresh & Gordon term this phenomenon “devaluation of nursing” (p. 38). I’m always reminded of a physician that tried to talk me into going to medical school. He said, “You don’t even have to be smart to go to medical school. You just have to read a lot and pass some tests.” When I am asked this question, I remind patients there are smart doctors and there are smart nurses while the opposite is also true of both. We are two separate, demanding professions with the same goal of taking care of patients. This is also an opportunity to educate the patient as to my role as educator, clinician, and holistic care facilitator.
As Buresh & Gordon stress in...