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Wise Word of the Month: Position

As nurses, how can you position yourselves to better serve the patients and the hospital, and use your position for the good of the people?

November’s wise word of the month is position.

As nurses, how can you position yourselves to serve the patients and the hospital better and use your position for the good of the people?

The Oxford English Dictionary has two primary definitions for “position”: one noun and one verb.

In its noun form, “position” is defined as: “The place in which a person, thing, etc., is located or has been put; situation, site, station. In (also into) position: in (also into) its, his, or her proper, appropriate, or correct place…”

Similarly, the verb form of “position” is defined as a transitive verb: “To put or set (a person or thing) in a particular or appropriate position; to place.”

As said by Connie Jastremski, RN, MS, MBA, ANP:

Forward-thinking is about being able to imagine all of the potential outcomes and position yourself and your organization well to take any of those outcomes in stride. When you’re thinking forward, you are able to move forward confidently to accomplish your objectives.

Jastremski’s quote uses the verb form of “position,” with similar uses dating back to 1893, from Colonel Peter Hawker’s Diary: “Had I..positioned the birds myself, I could not have had a more glorious opportunity.” (P. Hawker, Diary (1893) vol. I. 151)

However, the use of “position” as a transitive verb is a relatively recent development, with written examples appearing only 100 years ago. There are a few biblical examples of “position” as an intransitive verb, for instance, in John Ryther’s Glorious Gospel Preface from 1703: “He had preached and position’d.” The way Jastremski uses “position” is of the former, though within the nursing field, there are countless contexts in which “position” could be applied.

What Jastremski is referring to with her use of “position” is the social power nurses have within the healthcare system and among patients that can be used to care for patients and their communities.

Nurses must position themselves or be able to set themselves up for success in their field, with success resulting in patients who feel cared for and heard. Being a nurse means staying current on current research and practices needed to provide the most modern and comprehensive care.

On a larger scale, Jastremski explained, nurses must also be able to position themselves in the context of the hospital and the wider community. Nurses are the most direct connection between patients and the hospital, so they must be well-versed in the hospital's practices and how these policies benefit or hinder the patients, their families, and the community.

By thinking ahead, or as Jastremski put it, thinking forward, nurses can anticipate what the people they are caring for might need and be able to do their job well under any scenario - this, as it turns out, is what “positioning” truly is.

While nurses find themselves in a unique position (noun-form) within the healthcare system (which inherently allows them to make a special impact on patients), they still have the opportunity to position themselves further (transitive verb-from) to benefit healthcare more broadly through leadership and board service.

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