Everybody loves a good story! School nurses have an abundance of stories stemming from daily work and community volunteer experiences. These stories cover all genres; drama, comedy, and dare I say… thriller- just to name a few. At the NASN Conference 2017 the opening keynote speaker, a PROFESSIONAL STORYTELLER (yes, he is paid for telling stories), Luis Ortega, engaged conference participants with a story. The take-away message Ortega bestowed is, “…story-telling and story-listening can evoke empathy, build more inclusive environments, and close gaps of inequity in our communities.”
The theme of communication was launched during the Pre-Conference Affiliate Leadership Academy. Beth Mattey and Nina Fekaris shared their expertise in how to move from a voice of “virtue” to a voice of “agency.” Nursing traditionally uses the voice of virtue, which promotes a caring narrative. In contrast, a voice of agency exerts power and propagates change. Mattey and Fekaris advised reading Buresh & Gordon’s, “From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public.” The importance of being clear, authentic, and truthful in communication is paramount.
Dr. Susan Hassmiller, of RWJF, reviewed the landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. This report presents recommendations to “…transform health through nursing.” The vision of RWJF is to build a “culture of health” in which all people lead healthy lives. Certainly this is a common goal for all of us! Hassmiller highlights that nurses, including school nurses, are key in order for this vision to come to fruition. The public, including our school boards and administration, are not clear as to what we do and how we impact student success. Hassmiller cites Maughan (2003) and Darnell (2015): Presence of full time nurses are associated with improved graduation rates; better class performance; and decreased absenteeism.
Let’s advocate for our profession and school children by sharing our stories, using a voice of agency. Write a column in your school’s online newsletter or website, present at a parent/teacher organization or school board meeting. Let’s educate the community about what we do and the needs of our students. Only by sharing our stories can we invoke change and move towards a culture of health. What story most accurately illuminates a need in your educational community? Few can answer this question better than you. Tell your story.
Gina Emge, MSN, RN, CSN-NJ
Board of Directors
National Association of School Nurses
New Jersey State School Nurses Association