School of Nursing

May 1, 2023

The Many Roles of Nurses

May is Nurses Month. It’s one of 12 months every year when we should see, acknowledge, and be grateful for the more than four million nurses in this country who provide care that is capable, competent, crucial—and often times, lifesaving.

One of the unique aspects of the University of Washington School of Nursing is our emphasis on educating nurses who are nurse leaders. For most people, “nurse” brings up the image of a clinical nurse providing bedside care. What most people never see are the other roles nurse leaders play in the healthcare system.

Whether it’s the charge nurse on a floor at a hospital or a policy maker nurse working with legislators to create or improve wellness, nurse leaders have an ever-increasing impact on the healthcare you receive. It is important to understand that nurses are managers, policy makers, influencers, executives, and CEOs as well as being clinicians, researchers, and educators.

Nurse leaders are forging new ways of improving wellness through community- faith-based- and corporate programs that encourage people to make gaining and maintaining health their highest priority.

Nurses have an enormous reservoir of goodwill, which is something nurse leaders learn to leverage. Nursing is America’s most trusted profession, as it has been for decades. This trust is something created over time by millions of nurses doing what they do, day in and day out, and doing with with a level of skill and compassion that is evident to their patients. When nurses speak, those who make laws and draw up budgets listen because they know nurses always put their patients’ needs front-and-center.

Increasingly, nurses are viewed by other healthcare professionals as equals who have earned their place in discussions about clinical care, healthcare investment, and communication with the public. It is more important than ever that we educate nurse leaders who are prepared to be powerful advocates for equity of access to healthcare, and equity of treatment once a patient is in the healthcare system.

The next time you see a nurse, consider just saying, “Thank you.” Nurses may seem superhuman, but they do a difficult job. For them, “thank you” means an enormous amount. It’s a gift only you can give.

Keep your eye out for nurse leaders—they’re everywhere. You might see them in the news, at legislative hearings, or leading international non-governmental organizations. Thank them, as well. They’re creating the future of your healthcare, and we’re proud to be educating them to do so.