By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN interim editor-in-chief

At the AJN Conference: left to right, Diana Mason, Amanda Stefancyk, Catherine Drous, Teresa Pavone

At the AJN Conference: left to right, Diana Mason, Amanda Stefancyk, Catherine Drous, Teresa Pavone

Speaking Sunday night at the first AJN Conference in Chicago, Diana Mason, AJN’s editor-in-chief emeritus, told the audience about her recent visit to the West Wing of the White House. If you watched the news that week you may have seen President Obama’s declaration to a crowd of nurses: “I love nurses.”

Mason told the conference that she was disappointed in the remark because “that’s not what nurses need.”  Nurses need to be respected for what they  know and for what they do, and then they need to be given a seat at the policy table when strategies for changing the health care system are being discussed.

Right now, she said, “no one is paying attention to the nurse-led models of care that work.” These include  the American Academy of Nursing’s Raise the Voice Campaign; the AARP/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Champion Nursing in America; the Initiative on the Future of Nursing; and Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB), the collaborative initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.

On Monday, Mason moderated a panel of nurses (pictured in the above photo) who are driving change and solving health care delivery problems on their hospital units. (For example, Amanda Stefancyk, shown second from left, has written a collection of articles for AJN about using TCAB.) Mason was right—nurses do have the answers. These bright women made significant differences in quality of care and patient and nurse satisfaction scores.

I was wondering, after listening to all the presentations, why is it that nurses’ opinions aren’t being sought? Why is it that hospitals are quick to spend a gazillion dollars on unproven technology but drag their feet on evidence-based changes (like appropriate nurse staffing)? Are we still so invisible that we’re just an afterthought?