Today in the chart

Wise Word of the Month: Reach

How can we understand nurses’ global reach? What is the global impact of nursing? Follow along as we unpack the historical usage of the word reach and its application to nursing.

The word of the month for July is reach. As described by Angela Wright, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC,

“I think nurses know that they impact their patients; they think they could impact their communities, but they rarely acknowledge or see the impact the profession of nursing has globally. Our reach is broad.”

The term “reach” has a few different meanings as both a verb and a noun. A quick Google search produces the results: “an act of reaching out with one’s arm” and “stretch out an arm in a specified direction in order to touch or grasp something,” but based on the quote from Wright, it is clear that a nurse’s reach is not quite encapsulated in those definitions alone. W

The Oxford English Dictionary a (OED) defines reach as “Exte as we’dnt or range of application, effect, influence, etc.” and is used figuratively in many contexts today.

One of the oldest uses of reach with this definition comes from John Dee, a mathematician, and astrologer, who used the word in a geometry book translated by Henry Billingsley in 1570: “These words..the reach of their meaning, is farther, then you would lightly imagine.”

John Dee is implying impact here. In the same way that the ‘reach’ of a word is “[...] farther than you would lightly imagine,” a nurse’s ‘reach’ is the extent of their impact on those around them.

Wright said it best: a nurse’s reach is broad. Nurses directly affect the quality of life of their patients, as well as the families of the patients and the greater community around them. A nurse’s care does not end after they leave the bedside but rather is continuous throughout a patient’s healing process, with the quality of their work also involving a patient’s parents or children, spouse, and friends.

Additionally, a nurse’s reach is to provide care on an individual level and push themselves and the medical community forward. Nursing is not a practice that impacts only the local community but is integral to comprehensive and comfortable medical care globally.

Jane Salvage and Jill White, writers of “Our future is global: nursing leadership and global health,” say, “Nurses occupy a special position as the interface between the health system and the community; we see, hear and know, as end users of health policies, how policy affects people and their communities.”

Because nurses have the most one-on-one interactions with patients in their most vulnerable moments, they need to be the eyes and ears of the policymakers who decide what should be a priority and what laws should be in place. Without nurses willing to be leaders and express the needs of those in the healthcare system, nationally and internationally, health policies would not be where they are today and would be unable to continue improving.

A nurse’s reach should never be downplayed or overlooked, and it is an essential part of healthcare, going far beyond just the one-on-one moments with the patient. Because of their broad reach, nurses have myriads of knowledge and empathy that is hard to come by in day-to-day life. They have seen all different types of people and have the patience to deal with any situation that may arise, even while working long days or late nights. Nurses can be compassionate at the bedside while taking their experiences and advocating for their patients beyond the hospital, influencing national and international health policy.

In summary, a nurse’s reach is broad.

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