Why the World Needs Nurses - An Anthology of Perspectives

Why the World Needs Nurses - An Anthology of Perspectives

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Events of recent years have shown how actions taken in one country will likely be felt around the world. Intertwined with political and social policy, the global economic downturn has overshadowed other crises that may prove to be even more devastating.

  • Edited By: Marilyn Gendek, Cynthea Wellings
  • Published Date: September 28, 2010
  • Publisher: Ausmed Publications
  • ISBN: 0-9803662-7-3


The world of the twenty-first century is smaller than it has ever been before in history. Our neighbours are not just across the street, or town, but across oceans. Events of recent years have shown how actions taken in one country will likely be felt around the world. Intertwined with political and social policy, the global economic downturn has overshadowed other crises that may prove to be even more devastating. One of those dark shadows on the horizon is the worldwide nursing crisis. Even now, there are not enough qualified nurses to fill their diverse, and much needed, role in healthcare delivery. The fall-out will be more serious than most people realise. Just like, or perhaps even more than, the financial crisis, the consequences will be felt by all people, regardless of their social or economic status.

There are certainly plenty of theories to explain how we arrived at this crisis. Although there is some variance, there are also sufficient reports to forecast just how dire the situation might become. But it is easy to get lost in statistics and footnotes. And it’s hard to apply them when thinking of a profession whose members are generally defined as caregivers, often to the detriment of their status in the community. Therefore, this book is written to contribute, in some way, to the debate about nurses in our society. We want to explore people’s perception of nurses: their duties, responsibilities, training and certification. One of our goals, in compiling this book, is to highlight to those doubters who ask: ‘What difference does it make if we don’t have enough nurses?’ the impact a shortage of nurses would have on care and services and quality of life.

As members of the profession of nursing, we have our own opinion on the matter. However, while passionate about our point of view, we wish to effectively present other perspectives on the debate about nurses in our society and the crisis.

While we believe it is up to us, the nurses, to make this known, we invited others to join us to share their personal experience. Because nursing is a global profession, we reached out to the international community, to gather a diverse collection of contemporary views from within and without the profession. Contributors from within the profession include currently practising nurses, as well as those who have joined the exodus from the nursing profession. We also invited doctors, patients, and families of nurses to tell their stories. All look at nursing from a different angle. But all are overwhelmingly qualified to answer the question we pose.

‘Why does the world need nurses?’

Their answers bring into focus those blurry issues that are sometimes so hard to clarify. While we can provide references and studies that discuss the definition of nursing, one of our contributors expresses it in her own words when she talks about her recovery from a critical illness: ‘The nurses were a constant professional presence…and my advocate when I could not find my voice.’ While we strive to explain the important and complex role a nurse has in healthcare, a physician writes that nurses are simply, ‘our indispensable colleagues’.

This book is not intended to be a definitive text, citing an extensive range of perspectives on nurses’ roles and why the world needs nurses. Rather, it aims to further expose what qualified nurses actually do, and why they are such an important group of health professionals who must not be a sideshow when health reform is being debated. Nurses are the beating heart of any sophisticated healthcare system. But strangely, and almost universally, they have a disproportionately diminished voice in the allocation of healthcare funds.

The solution to the nurse shortage is ultimately quite simple. We have to attract newcomers, and staunch the flow of qualified nurses out of the profession. In our introduction, we provide some background by identifying key problems that must be corrected before we can recruit newcomers to our profession, and retain those already in practice. We paint a picture of what the status of healthcare will be, and may already be, without a sufficient population of nurses. Our contributors further that debate through their perspectives on why the world needs nurses.

We hope in some way that this book will enlighten and educate those who hold on to an image of the nurse that hearkens from centuries past. While understanding past roots is essential, perpetuating this image of a nurse literally puts the profession, and those it serves, in harm’s way. Even more than those who are not nurses, we want to gain the attention of students who are hesitating in choosing nursing as a career, and reassure those nurses who are having doubts about their chosen profession. As you read the chapters ahead, you will find a startling level of support and respect that is representative of a quiet majority of people who honour nurses. Perhaps our next challenge is to harness this support in ways that will resolve the issues, and restore health to nursing.

Key Features

  • Nurses as Advocates for the Weak, Vulnerable and the Elderly
  • A Doctor's Perspective on Nurses
  • How Nursing Made Me a Better Person
  • Nursing Career Opportunities: A Diverse and Multi-skilled Profession
  • Nurse Practitioners: Emerging Roles, Technology and Tension – An American Perspective

About the Editors

Marilyn Gendek

Marilyn was educated as a nurse in New Zealand and subsequently worked for nearly 40 years in this profession in Australia, New Zealand and Britain. Her prestigious career includes general bedside nursing and working with cancer patients, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, England. As well, Marilyn worked as a nurse educator at the Royal North Shore Hospital, The College of Nursing New South Wales, and the University of Sydney.

Her work with the former Board of Nursing Studies in Brisbane, Australia involved accrediting nursing courses and the development of the legislation that established the Queensland Nursing Council.

Marilyn moved to Canberra, the capital city of Australia, in 1993, where she became a nursing advisor with the newly established Australian Nursing Council (now the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council) and was Chief Executive Officer of the Council from 1999-2004.

Educated as a registered nurse at the Royal London Hospital, England, Cynthea Wellings migrated to Australia in 1981. Her extensive nursing experience, both in England and Australia, involved working in community and general hospital settings, as well as a short period in psychiatric nursing. Her passion, however, was always accident and emergency nursing. After completing postgraduate qualifications in gerontology nursing, Cynthea focused her attention on continence promotion becoming a founding member of the Continence Foundation of Australia, and co-authoring a bestselling book about urinary incontinence. Now, as CEO, Publisher and Commissioning Editor of Ausmed Publications Pty Ltd, Cynthea publishes multi-author, nursing textbooks and provides an extensive online library resource for nurses at

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