Nurse Practitioners: Who We Are, and Who We Are Not

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  • EDITORIALNurse Practitioners: WhoWeAre, and Who We Are Not

    Martha K. Swartz, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAANWhen I first entered nursing, I remember encoun-tering the classic work by Florence Nightingale, Noteson Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not(Nightingale, 1860). At the time I believed this wassomething of a strange title because, way back then, Ithought I knew it all and that I certainly knew whatthe field of nursing was. Yet I soon learned that thistransformative 136-page bookwritten in England in1859, a time when there was considerable poverty,neglect, and prejudicechallenged the contemporaryviews of nursing and of nurses as being ignorant,uneducated people.

    Ms. Nightingales book and its title are still strangelyrelevant today. Nurses (particularly those in advancedpractice) continue to struggle with issues of identityand with the perceptions and knowledge that othercolleagues and patients have of our work. How manyof us have bristled upon hearing the term mid-levelor at being lumped together with other equally impor-tant clinicians as non-physician health care providersor even allied health professionals by our respectivepractice institutions?

    The terms mid-level and physician-extender areessentially industrial terms originated by bureaucraciesand organizations. They are not professional, descrip-tive terms. They also have the unfortunate effects ofcalling into question the legitimacy of nurse practi-tioners to function according to our established scopeof practice, education, and license, and they onlyfurther confuse health care consumers and the public.

    The use of such terms should not be considered afringe issue in any health care setting. Pharmacists,physician assistants, dieticians, research associates,J Pediatr Health Care. (2014) 28, 475.


    Copyright Q 2014 by the National Association of Pediatric

    Nurse Practitioners. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights


    www.jpedhc.organd care coordinators are all keymembers of just aboutany health care organization, andwe should not acceptthe rationale that using mid-level provider and othersuch nomenclature is a matter of expediency and is notmeant to degrade any ones position.Fortunately, the Society of Hospital Medicine has

    recently taken the giant step of beginning to phaseout the inaccurate nomenclature for health care profes-sionals (Shank, 2014). Specifically, they will beginphasing out the following terms in their materials,database, and registration systems: allied health,non-physician provider, physician-extender, andmid-level. Good for them.We all know that identity and the value and expertise

    of all members of the health care team are important forthe broad field of health care, for caregivers, and fortheir patients. We have taken important steps to devel-oping strong interprofessionalmodels of education andcollaborative practice. Yet as part of this ongoing con-tinuum, we need to continually be grounded by ourown identity as nurse practitioners and to have thataccurately described and reflected in our professionaland corporate language systems. We also need toperfect our elevator and airplane passenger speeches,when we may have less than a minute to say who weare and who we are not. In a nutshell, we need to beknown forwhat we do rather than bywhatwe dont do.When she wrote her classic Notes on Nursing, I think

    perhaps Miss Nightingale may have had a sense that,going forward, the various roles of nurses wouldcontinue to be challenged, and I believe she realizedthat a fundamental identity, scope of practice, andaccountability are crucial to the success of nursing inall of its forms. I like to think that she is still teaching us.

    REFERENCESNightingale, F. (1860). Notes on nursing: What it is and what it is not.

    London: Harrison.Shank, B. (May, 2014). Society of Hospital Medicine phases out

    inaccurate nomenclature for healthcare professionals. The Hos-pitalist. Retrieved from: 2014 475

    Delta:1_given name

    Nurse Practitioners: Who We Are, and Who We Are NotReferences