May 8, 2014, 12:00 PM, Posted by Linda Burnes Bolton
Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, is vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer, and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., and a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Board of Trustees.
When troubles arose in ancient times, tribal leaders, known as “circle callers,” called on villagers to discuss problems and explore solutions as they sat together around a communal fire.
We need more of this kind of inclusive decision-making in our modern hierarchical society, and in our health care system in particular—and nurses are in a prime position to make that happen.
Nurses, I believe, are natural circle callers. They assess health from all sides and all angles. They look at individuals’ symptoms and diagnoses, but also their diet and exercise habits, their living and working conditions, their neighborhood environments and personal resources. They spend more time with patients than other health care providers and develop strong, trusting relationships with them and their loved ones. They focus on patients, but they also work with family members, caregivers, providers, administrators, payers, and community-based supporters.
In our health care system, nurses are masters of inclusive decision-making. We need nurses in positions of power so they can share their unique insights and help answer pressing and persistent questions like how to narrow deeply troubling disparities in health and health care; how to provide more coordinated and more patient-centered care; and how to improve the quality and safety of care while, at the same time, reducing costs.