Advancing the Cardiovascular Nursing Profession
Can you remember exactly what inspired you to be a nurse? For many of us, the calling comes in childhood. Maybe we are following in the footsteps of someone we know, or are encouraged to this noble profession by one or more family members or family friends. We may have had a positive experience with a nurse, or relied on a nurse’s care and expertise for either ourselves or someone we care about. For some of us, it’s a steady paycheck in the most trusted profession in the United States.[i] Others of us are inspired a bit later in life, recognizing a societal need, a call to ‘mission.’ Maybe we are drawn to the excitement, the possibilities of research, or even because a nurse can work in just about any geographic location thanks to so many practice options. Regardless of how we came to be where we are today, what can we do to give back to, and advance the nursing profession and to those who are following in our footsteps?
The phrase ‘it takes a village’ is used to reflect the community efforts that are required to raise a healthy, well-rounded child, but the phrase is equally applicable in the ongoing process of developing knowledgeable, skilled, and capable nursing professionals who can continue to meet the needs of patients and their families in an ever-changing healthcare environment. As cardiovascular nurses, we each have a role in advancing the nursing profession.
What are the opportunities for advancing the nursing profession?
Perhaps the simplest way to advance the nursing profession is to practice the highest level of evidence-based nursing: focusing on each patient and family, demonstrating the value of nursing to all our health care team colleagues, and setting the example for new nurses who are entering the profession. This level of nursing leadership does not require “holding a title or position” but is a more organic way to advance the profession. Think of the number of patients, family members, staff nurses, and team members a single nurse can impact in the course of an 8-hour (or longer) shift in any practice setting—from the hospital or busy outpatient office to the cardiac rehab clinic or research suite.
Beyond our day-to-day practice opportunities, there is the possibility to take a more “planned” role in advancing the nursing profession. You may choose to be engaged in a number of different activities, or select one at a time on which to focus—but whatever you decide, know that your involvement is critical in making a difference for your colleagues and your patients, both now and into the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare forever, due to its global, societal, and other life-changing impacts. The nursing workforce was challenged like other front-line healthcare professionals and has led to a high level of exhaustion and burnout, and even caused some of our colleagues to leave the profession. But did you know that being involved in something bigger than yourself and your daily activities can actually help keep you motivated while you are making a difference for others? Beyond what you do each day for work, finding the right match of volunteer activities can help you expand your circle of friends, colleagues, and mentors; provide an outlet for your creativity, your analytical side, or some other untapped skillset; increase your feelings of contentment and joy; expand your connections with your community; allow you to learn new skills; aid in career advancement; and (what we are focusing on in this article) make a significant impact in your chosen profession.
It doesn’t matter if you are just out of nursing school, on the edge of retirement, or somewhere in between. No matter where you are in your career, you can make a difference in advancing the field of cardiovascular nursing. You can choose a time commitment and a focus that makes the most sense for you. Maybe you’d like to try a short-term project to ‘try out’ what type of contribution you can make—or perhaps you are ready to commit to something longer term. Either way, consider what type of time you have available, what skills you have that you’d like to share, and what your goal is (such as working within your health system on a project or activity, working with those newer to the profession, advocating for changes in policy, or even to learn new skills).
Here are some ideas to get you started in your journey to advance the profession of cardiovascular nursing:
- Lead by example. Practice at the top of your education, training, and skills. Focus your efforts on patients, families, and caregivers to help them achieve the best outcomes possible. Share your knowledge and skills with those with whom you work.
- Volunteer to help PCNA or another organization to which you belong. Find more information about PCNA volunteer opportunities, and share your skills and interests—whether you are just starting as a volunteer, or want to take more of a leadership role within PCNA.
- Ask your supervisor what needs can be met in your workplace Nearby opportunities may be convenient, and allow you to see your impact in your immediate surroundings. Is there a committee to which you contribute? Is there a need for articles to be written for a newsletter? Is there a leadership opportunity available within your work group? Start a journal club on your floor or at your clinic. Work with your institution to promote staff health and wellness activities. Combine your interests/skills with your efforts—your love of healthy cooking, for example, could start a monthly potluck for staff and highlight heart-healthy recipes to share.
- Offer to become a nurse mentor. This can be in an unofficial or official capacity at your workplace, or as a more formal structure through your work setting, college, or vocational tech school. An engaged, enthusiastic mentor can positively impact a nursing student or new graduate’s experience. It’s helpful to remember that each of us has been the ‘new nurse’ and that while manuals and training programs are a great start, there are a lot of questions and considerations that take place outside of more formal systems.
- Continue your education. Online learning, lunch-and-learn options at your work site, hybrid or in-person classes and programs (check out PCNA offerings), as well as more advanced degree programs, will allow you to increase your knowledge and skills, and network with other nursing professionals. You’ll be advancing the profession by advancing your own skills. PCNA has launched a new leadership series.
- Contribute to research and share what is learned through submitting an abstract proposal, or authoring an article for a peer-reviewed journal.
- Engage in nurse advocacy efforts. Think about an issue you feel strongly about—staffing ratios, patient-related legislation, or other topics. Write a letter, call, or email elected officials such as congresspeople, governors, or other individuals or groups. Your personal perspective, shared stories about specific situations that have been faced, and passion for the field can make a big difference. Find out more about PCNA advocacy efforts here.
- Advocacy can also take place on social media channels, both within and outside the healthcare community. Be aware of any restrictions from your workplace, and always share your ideas thoughtfully and project professionalism. While you may be posting as an individual, you reflect the nursing profession—particularly when addressing healthcare issues, or have information available about your workplace or role.
- If you aren’t already, get involved with your local PCNA chapter—or start one! Consider a chapter leadership role—it’s a great way to advance the nursing profession in your region.
- Gallup poll, Dec 1-6, 2021. https://news.gallup.com/poll/388649/military-brass-judges-among-professions-new-image-lows.aspx. Accessed July 11, 2022.