Today in the chart

Wise Word of the Month: Engage

What does engagement mean for nurses? How can a nurse remain engaged in the midst of burn-out? Follow along as we unpack the historical usage of the word engage and its application to nursing.

Nursing requires a great deal of engagement (involvement) with patients and other hospital staff, but how do we define engagement, and what does it mean to nurses?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb form of “engage” as “To deposit or make over as a pledge” or “To bind or secure by a pledge.” The word has French roots, stemming from “engager,” which directly translates to “to engage.”

One of the earliest recorded uses of the word in English comes from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice:

“I haue ingag’d my selfe to a deere friend, ingag’d my friend to his meere enemie to feede my meanes.”

While this definition of “engage” is no longer widely used, we can see how it connects to our modern understanding of engagement: a truly engaged person has pledged to something.

The definition from Oxford Languages provides a more modern description of the word: “occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention)” and “participate or become involved in.” In other words, to be engaged is to be active and involved in a chosen interest (pledging yourself to a cause, for example, as Shakespeare suggested). Engaging in a profession means being excited about one’s job and having a passion for bettering their workplace to serve the needs of those around them better. In nursing, this means caring for patients and ensuring that the needs of the patients and other hospital staff are taken care of through the boardroom and hospital policies.

Being engaged within nursing, however, is easier said than done. As explained by Jodi Waddoups from American Nurse, “Achieving active engagement requires that nurses find their voices and participate in ongoing professional and personal development” (Jodi Waddoups MSN-ED, RN, NPD-BC, RN-BC, 2022).

To be engaged as a nurse means being involved in all aspects of the profession, from caring for patients at the bedside to advocating for patient rights at the hospital and within public policies. It means trusting your gut when it comes to a patient’s well-being and being able to speak up when something is wrong. Active engagement in nursing is constantly learning new medical practices and techniques and adapting to different communication styles depending on who you are talking to and what would make them the most comfortable.

Robin Woidtke, MSN-Ed. RN CCSH, RPSGT, FAAST, describes what being engaged as a nurse means to her:

“By being engaged, taking the initiative to make a change, and bringing the diversity of thought to the table, I was able to enrich the soil of my board - thereby keeping our organization healthy and growing.”

Much of a nurse’s job is to advocate for the needs of their patients and fellow nurses, and an excellent way to accomplish this is to have diversity in the hospital boardroom. Having people with different ways of thinking work together allows for a more comprehensive array of needs and ideas to be represented and discussed when creating hospital policies.

Nurses are crucial both for the well-being of their patients and the application of fair and effective policy, which are directly affected by a nurse’s level of engagement.

In summary, engaged nursing is effective nursing.

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