Hope in Nursing

Contributors: Barbara MacDonald
and Jane K. Dickinson

Barbara and Jane worked together as student/faculty in the online MS in Diabetes Education and Management program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Hope was a common thread throughout Barbara’s work in the program, and the conversation continues:

JKD: How did you get interested in hope?

BJM: My introduction to the concept of hope in health care was through a book recommendation: The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman. In the context of nursing, I have always believed in health equity and striving for the best possible care for all people. To achieve this, hope is the underlying and fundamental driver. To keep keeping on, to advocate, to fight for the best possibilities, one must believe in and have hope for a better future. As nurses, and fellow humans on a journey together, we have the ability and responsibility to identify and foster hope in ourselves and others in need, in our care and as we are able.

JKD: Where do you see hope in nursing? Where is it lacking?

BJM: Hope is everywhere in nursing. Nurses work with the fundamental belief that we will and can make things better. We continue to get up and go to make things better everywhere at all times. We use a process of critical thinking and decision-making to create that better future for people. Hope is the foundation of this process. We are continually thinking about and creating ways to make things better for the people we are fortunate enough to encounter and for whom we provide care. Hope is woven into the fabric of nursing, and yet, ironically, it is not necessarily identifiable, quantifiable, or systematically measured or fostered as an essential component of care. Hope is fostered through strengths-based, rather than deficit-based, models and systems in health care, and we have work to do to achieve that. What if we began with identifying what is going well and what is working, particularly in non-acute care? What if we had an assessment where we asked how hopeful someone is about their health, and what gives them the greatest hope?

JKD: How does hope have an impact on health outcomes?

BJM: I believe that hope is a pilot light in each of us that is always there, even in the darkest times. If hope is identified and fostered, there is the potential for people to rise up and have the will and energy to move toward a desired future. This is true for both the person receiving care and the nurse. Hope is sustained through incremental progression toward the goal and desired future. When people experience success associated with their efforts, they are inspired, empowered and more hopeful about their future. Success and movement toward results, such as blood glucose levels in the goal range, create energy for continuing the momentum toward the desired future. When hope is fostered, health outcomes are positively influenced and people tend to feel more empowered in their self-management and self-advocacy.

JKD: What connections exist between hope and nursing knowledge?

BJM: It is likely that there is an element of hope in all nursing theories, whether named as such or otherwise. Gottlieb’s philosophy of strengths-based nursing is an approach that embodies hope along with empowerment and self-efficacy and their relationships with achieving desired outcomes (Gottlieb, 2014). As inherent as hope is in all aspects of nursing, it is both surprising and disappointing that there is not a formalized mechanism for identifying and fostering hope to systematically advance health outcomes. While hope is specifically mentioned in the works of Weidenbach, Travelbee, and Kolcaba, almost every nursing theory and theoretical/conceptual model appears to be addressing hope in some way.

JKD: What else would you like to tell us about hope and nursing?

BJM: When I asked a leading mental health specialist about scales to measure hope in diabetes self-management, much like the tools used for assessment of depression and diabetes distress, he replied that to his knowledge there are none. Pausing to think about why that is, I wonder if the effort has been placed on what hope is rather than assuming that it is, and strategizing to identify and foster hope. What if we assume that hope exists within everyone, and find ways to foster it in conjunction with evidence-informed best practice to ensure movement toward the desired future? One thing that stuck in my head in the conversation with the mental health specialist was what he said about assessments in general, such as a depression instrument: “whatever you are looking for, you will find.” If we are looking for depression through use of a depression scale, we will find it. So let’s create a measure to find hope and then foster it.

Even in our current reality, I believe that hope is abundant. We pin our hopes on our everyday approaches, and in the potential of the future. There is hope in science for understanding the coronavirus and immunity to it. There is hope in understanding more about how we need to become informed and examine our thoughts and actions about addressing inadequacies and achieving health equity for all. There is hope for humanity to come together to make a better future, and in this nurses and nursing leadership play a fundamental role. By being hopeful we can find a way to optimize nursing practice in the interest of the public. There is hope as we strive for this optimization in this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Could there be a more significant challenge and call to action for nurses than what we are currently facing in 2020? I am hopeful that nurses can come together, rise to the challenge, and be the change we are looking for. Let’s be hopeful and lead a path which inspires hope in others as we create a great movement toward health equity.

Reference

Gottlieb, L.N. (2014). Strengths-Based Nursing. American Journal of Nursing,  114(8), 24-32. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000453039.70629.e2

About the contributors

Barbara J. MacDonald, RN, BSN, MS-DEDM CDE is a diabetes consultant and co-founder of IDEA | Inspiring Diabetes Empowerment Associates, as well as practice advisor for Saskatchewan’s nursing regulatory body. She is a 2017 graduate of the Master of Science, Diabetes Education and Management, Teachers College Columbia University and is completely hopeful about our collective power to shift the health care experience and outcomes for all, particularly those who are most overlooked.

 

Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDCES is a Nursology.net blogger and is the Program Director and Faculty for the solely online and asynchronous Master of Science in Diabetes Education and Management at Teachers College Columbia University. Jane’s research, publications, and speaking focus on the language in diabetes and the need to impart hope through our messages to and about people living with diabetes.

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