Back to Basics: Nursing


This new series on Pixels & Pills will focus on the importance of revisiting traditional ways of thinking.

By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

I realize that by putting nursing into a series on old-fashioned medical ideas, I’m setting myself up for a lot of cranky comments. Please understand, I’m not implying that I think nursing is outmoded or in any way not utterly vital to our healthcare system. Exactly the opposite! But it belongs in this series because much of the work of the pharmaceutical industry would imply that they see it as unimportant, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more wrong-headed, self-defeating concept.

Why isn’t the industry focusing on nurses? There are about three million nurses in America, and not quite a million doctors, so clearly the numbers are there. Most people will spend more time with nurses in their healthcare interactions than with doctors, so the time with patients is there. But – say it with me – nurses can’t prescribe drugs. And so they have been pretty thoroughly ignored, because they are not the shortest means to the desired end.

However, in an environment where rep visits are fleeting if banned, where impressive gifts have been curtailed, where budget cuts are making it less likely that doctors can attend conferences, the physician is not nearly the “easy target” that he or she once was.

It’s a shame that the industry has to discover the worth of non-physician healthcare professionals by the process of elimination, but at least they’re going to discover it. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants: these people are, of course, hardworking and tremendously successful and very deserving of attention and plaudits. Moreover, though, they’re underserved: they could do more for their patients if their needs were addressed by the pharmaceutical industry. And most of all, if you’re making this argument from a business standpoint, they are the hotline to the patient – they know the details of their patients’ experiences, they have the time for conversations, and they are a powerful influence on their patients’ treatment.

Yet they are not addressed in educational, supportive, honorary or really any kind of industry initiatives. Who’s going to figure it out first?

One bright light is Johnson & Johnson’s, which isaimed at the recruitment of nursing students. The utilitarian campaign site is joined by a complement of videos on the J&J YouTube. It’s a start, but it’s not a practical or immediate benefit to those three million registered nurses already working.

How could communicating with nurses help you meet your goals for your clients and their patients?



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