I hate to admit this in public but I do enjoy a good self-help book from time to time. My latest guilty pleasure is Write It Down, Make it Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser. The title sums up the premise of the book pretty well: if you want to make changes in your life, start writing about them and your aspirations will begin to take on a life all their own.
I haven’t actually done that yet, so I will have to keep you posted. However, what really struck me was an anecdote about a study from the 1960’s (apparently this story has gotten around quite a bit and may have become an urban legend). Scientists observing monkeys on an island off the coast of Japan noted that these monkeys were washing sand off potatoes in a stream. Little by little other monkeys adopted this same behavior. When a certain number of monkeys (a “critical mass”) was reached, primates on neighboring islands started to do it too. This is sometimes referred to as the 100th monkey theory.
This got me thinking about the term “impact factor.” AJN editor-in-chief Diana Mason wrote about this in a post last month. It’s a way of determining how influential a journal is to its field. But I would like to apply the term to nurses and to nursing as a profession, in terms of a nurse’s impact on her or his patients and coworkers, and the nursing profession’s impact on health care as a whole—whether you break the cycle of nurse-to-nurse bullying by refusing to join in that kind of behavior, or perform good hand hygiene religiously and encourage others to do so too, or even lend a hand to an overwhelmed colleague when you have some downtime.
Perhaps if behaviors like these catch on they will help nurses get out of their own way so nursing can make a bigger impact on health care in general. I challenge everybody reading this to keep in mind your own impact factor the next time you start a shift—see what kind of change you can bring about.
—Updated byline: Christine Moffa, MSN, RN, was AJN’s clinical editor when this post was published in 2009. She currently teaches at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.