Knowledge is Power: Educating the Public in a Pandemic

By: Jessica Dzubak, MSN, RN

18 years: that is how long nurses have been the most trusted profession. While we are immensely proud to hold this title, especially during this very challenging Year of the Nurse, we must recognize the responsibility that comes with this honor.

In a society with media distrust, contentious political battles and citizens frightened for the uncertain future, now more than ever, people are relying on nurses.

As nurses, we don’t just take care of the sick. We also teach. We use our expertise to comfort and to empower. We take complex scientific and medical information and present it in ways patients of all backgrounds can understand. Patients look to us for answers during times when there seem to be few. Patients count on us, in good times and in bad.

This is why we are so trusted.

Our patients, communities, friends, and families all deserve our best. With so much misinformation floating around the internet and even amongst our friends and families, nurses are positioned to make a significant impact on public health by sharing accurate information and dispelling myths. An effective way to navigate a public health crisis is through knowledge and education.

In times such as this, nurses should be advocates of expertise. This means we should be cognizant of the information we share with laypersons, as it may have a significant impact on the spread and transmission of critical diseases like COVID-19; for better or for worse. While nurses are entitled to their own personal opinions and views, the weight of your opinion changes when its shared and prefaced with your position as a registered nurse. Be mindful of what you are sharing.

Through promotion of media literacy and disseminating accurate, reliable information, nurses are empowering laypersons with the best available information so they can make smart, educated decisions. Right now, the everyday decisions of citizens in our local community affect the global population.

It is not easy to be a nurse today. We hold a great responsibility. Reflect on the Nightingale Pledge you likely recited or heard read aloud at nursing graduation. We, as nurses, resolve to practice faithfully, including abstaining from “whatever is deleterious” or harmful. Judicious distribution of information shared under the expertise of being a nurse is essential in this time. We must keep in mind the impact of our words and remember the old adage, knowledge is power.

For practical strategies on teaching media literacy, check out our free webinar: Helping Patients Debunk Hoaxes: Teaching Media Literacy here.