In 2010, the Institute of Medicine, a U.S. public policy think-tank, published a report it entitled ‘The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.’ “Nurses,” it said, “have a key role to play as team members and leaders for a reformed and better integrated patient-centred healthcare system.”
“Throughout my studies,” says Ruth, “people have asked me if I’m going to go on and become a doctor. I know they mean it in a good way, but actually it shows they don’t understand how healthcare is changing and how the roles within healthcare are changing. That concept they have—‘doctors and nurses’—that goes back to Florence Nightingale…Back to the days when healthcare was all about hospitals.” Healthcare is changing because what ails us is changing. Today—thanks to medical advances—we don’t—at least, not to the extent we used to—get sick and die from infectious diseases. Instead, we’re more likely to suffer from longterm health conditions: things like arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, neck or back pain, or mental health problems. The World Health Organization has called these chronic conditions ‘the healthcare challenge of this century’.
And so our healthcare system is responding. When you are dealing with acute, life-threatening conditions, you design a system that is hospital-focused and doctor-led. The care is episodic, reactive and organised around individual medical specialities managing single conditions. But people with chronic conditions need a different system, one where they can manage their conditions themselves, at home, on an on-going basis. A system where there’s greater integration of care, across multiple disciplines and between hospital and community-based professionals. leading change Meet Ruth Johnson, newly qualified Bachelor of Nursing graduate from CPIT (now known as Ara Institute of Canterbury). Determined to lead change, and advance health. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine, a U.S. public policy think-tank, published a report it entitled ‘The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.’ “Nurses,” it said, “have a key role to play as team members and leaders for a reformed and better integrated patient-centred healthcare system.”
“That’s the future of healthcare,” says Ruth, “and that’s the future of nursing. Because in this new system nursing is at the heart of patient care. We’re the ones who work with individuals and families and whānau. We provide the encouragement people need to manage their conditions themselves. And we provide the link with the rest of the healthcare system: making sure they see a doctor or specialist if they need one.”
“More than that, nurses become the agents for change. Because of the relationship we have with people, we can become their healthcare ‘coach’, helping them see how they could live a more healthy lifestyle. That might be about diet, or exercise, or achieving a warmer, drier home. We’re not just carers any more, we’re health consultants and educators. It’s a shift, from treatment, to prevention. Helping people be independent.” “So, no, I don’t want to be a doctor— never did. It’s a completely different pathway. And—perhaps what people don’t yet understand—it’s a different relationship. Whether it’s in the operating theatre, or out in the community, it’s much more of a partnership than it used to be. Much more collaborative.” It is because of this changing definition of nursing that Ruth is excited about Te Papa Hauora. “Ara is moving the nursing courses to the Health Precinct and that makes so much sense. It means nursing students will be interacting with other health professionals much earlier and that will just accelerate the shift to working collaboratively.”
“Nurses,” said the Institute of Medicine President, Dr. Harvey Fineberg, “are a linchpin for health reform and will be vital to implementing systemic changes in the delivery of care.” Ruth Johnson, newly qualified Bachelor of Nursing graduate, sees herself, without doubt, as just such a linchpin.
Ruth Johnson, newly qualified Bachelor of Nursing graduate from CPIT (now known as Ara Institute of Canterbury).