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8 Actions to Take to Advance Your Career in 2020, Year of the Nurse

To commemorate Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, the World Health Organization dubbed 2020 the year of the nurse. The declaration is both a celebration and a call to action. Nurses are on the frontlines, fighting global health and human rights issues, and they need more support — from patients, administrators, executives, policy makers and beyond.

“We haven’t had this magnitude of attention in a long time, where people at the highest levels of global policy and decision-making are saying how essential nurses are,” says Shawna Butler, RN, MBA, host of the new podcast See You Now, which is a collaboration between the American Nurses Association and Johnson & Johnson. “We don’t have to feel like we’re a lone voice shrieking in the wind.”

RELATED: 11 Nurses Share Why They Decided to Leave the Bedside

While influencers of all kinds figure out ways to advance the work nurses have been doing for years, why not make time to advocate for yourself and your profession? Here are a few ideas to do just that.

Be visible online.

One of best ways to promote your professional prowess and the work nurses are doing is to create a social media profile, Butler tells Florence Health. You don’t need to post constantly; start by following the conversations happening among health leaders and innovators on these platforms, and connect with people addressing issues you care about.

Another option: make sure your email signature reflects your most important degrees and certifications, and consider including a shout-out to the Year of the Nurse and its website. If you have a page on your employer’s website, make sure that’s current, as well.

Go where you’re not expected.

You’ve likely heard that attending nursing conferences can lead to life-long professional connections and friendships. But what about all the gatherings that aren’t designed for nurses? Butler explains that part of the 2020 mission is integrating nursing perspectives into places where they’re not usually included. So find a forum for an issue you care about, like a local town hall about housing affordability, and speak up.

Become politically active.

To start, register to vote, Butler stresses. Next, follow politics in your community. “Look at the stances of local politicians that matter to your community’s health,” she adds. “Go and work for one of these campaigns. Volunteer for them or offer to be a political advisor on health. Down the line, you can even run for office.”

Get media training.

That nurses are missing from the media is a symptom of how little the public knows about the wide-ranging expertise and experiences of nurses as a profession. But a secondary contributor could be that many nurses are uncomfortable speaking to the press.

RELATED: 9 Nurses Share Their Most Memorable Mistakes on the Job

Reach out to the public relations division of your health system, find out the protocol for talking to reporters, and ask about media training. For your own personal growth, follow journalists covering the issues you care about on social media, and ask the online outlets you read about becoming a blogger. If you’re interested in contributing to Florence Health, email our editor at

Think about the language you use.

One of Butler’s go-to questions during moments of self-reflection is asking herself about the words she uses to talk about her work and profession. “The language we use is physician-centric or at least physician-biased,” she explains. “It’s certainly not clinician-agnostic.”

RELATED: 7 Terms Nurses Should Stop Using — And 6 You Should Say More Often

Some easy changes to make: Don’t refer to yourself as “mid-level,” and stop saying, “just a nurse.” Assert your clinical expertise with terms like “assessment” and “nursing judgement.”

Learn about nursing innovation.

How can you expect yourself to advocate for the full spectrum of nursing practice without understanding all nurses do? Listen to Butler’s podcast, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and others, to learn about the unexpected, far-reaching work of nurses.

If you’re already a fan, don’t forget to subscribe, rate it, review it, and share it with other people.

Support nursing innovation.

Reach out to the nurses doing work that interests you and ask how you can help. If you don’t have the resources to get involved yourself, include others who might. “Find nurses who are out in your community, driving change, and join them or at least be a very loud cheerleader,” Butler emphasizes.

Find something that frustrates you.

If you want to use your nursing experience to fight for the voiceless (more than you already are), Butler recommends starting the process not by building off your passion — but by asking yourself, “What’s an injustice that distresses me, one that I can’t abide by?” Unlike passion, which fades, “frustration grows the more you see the problem,” she says. “And you need that motivation to keep going when things get hard.

As Butler and the many nurses she’s interviewed for See You Now can attest, such initiatives require courage, collaboration and a desire to embrace complexity.

“When we combine medicine and nursing, and both of our senses of humanity, we come up with solutions that work, solutions that matter and solutions that innovate around human values,” she adds.

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