Calling All Nurses

Mar 01, 2002

Jim Lenehan
Many people say that TV is the ultimate influence on US society. If that's true, then Johnson & Johnson is on the road to success with its new ad campaign to end the nursing shortage in the United States.

The two ads, I'm a Nurse and They Dare to Care, which are scheduled for spots on national and local prime time stations-and aired during the Winter Olympics-are part of a $20 million, multi-year initiative to attract new nurses to the profession. The campaign, steered by an advisory board made up of executives from the J&J family of companies, directors of nursing organizations, and deans of college nursing programs, includes a website, scholarships for nursing students, and recruitment materials that will be distributed to schools, job counseling centers, and job fairs.

Jim Lenehan, vice-chairman of J&J's board of directors, moderated the press conferences kicking off the campaign in Washington DC on February 5 and New York on February 6. Although the ads premiered on February 6, the DC event was actually the big splash, attended by 800 people and featuring Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Representative Lois Capps (D, CA), one of the few registered nurses in Congress.

"In terms of start-up costs and involvement, this is J&J's most significant campaign for 2002," says Curt Selquist, J&J group chairman. Other spokespeople commented that the company believes it has a social responsibility to sponsor the initiative.

According to the American Hospital Association, there are currently 126,000 vacant positions for registered nurses throughout the United States. And the American Medical Association forecasts that as the average age of nurses increases, nursing school enrollment and graduation rates decline, and the population grays, the shortage will swell to more than 400,000 by 2020.

University of Akron dean of nursing Cynthia Flynn-Capers, RN, PhD, says the image campaign is necessary because the public is generally unaware of:

  • the different roles nurses can play in clinical practice
  • that the profession offers a competitive starting salary
  • and that it welcomes diversity.

In fact, with only one in ten men considering a nursing career, according to a Vanderbilt University poll, the campaign will focus on recruiting "a few good men."

More important, the initiative will open a dialogue about much-needed reforms in the profession, says Glenn Courounis, vice-president of human resources for New York's Lenox Hill Hospital. As it gains momentum, the campaign will expand to address employee retention, work/life balance, and the need for more support staff to allow nurses to focus on patients rather than paperwork.

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