2020 is the World Health Organisation’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. In med comms it is generally acknowledged that nurses represent an important target audience. Regular contact with a good nurse specialist can make the difference for patients struggling with asthma, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and myriad other long-term conditions. Educated, empathetic and driven, there can be no doubt that nurses have a pivotal role to play in patient care.

Why is it then that they are rarely top of the list when it comes to communications strategies? Why do GPs or consultants always seem to trump nurses when it comes to defining the target audiences? While it’s difficult to say for sure, the following reasons may all play a role:

  1. Nurses are not the main prescribers. Likely the number one reason and there is certainly a strong rationale for prioritising GPs or consultants. However, nurses increasingly share prescribing responsibilities and, those that don’t, are often trusted advisors to the prescribers themselves. Although they may not always play a key role in diagnosis – nurses are involved in ongoing management and treatment reviews. They are also the ones giving a positive feedback loop to consultants when they see the benefits a new therapeutic option has brought to one of their patients.
  2. An unconscious assumption that nurses don’t understand data. I’ve often sat in meetings where a GP or consultant has said something along the lines of “I don’t think nurses are interested in the data” or “I’m not sure nurses will understand that”. Now, while a nursing role does require a focus on clinical delivery, in my experience nurses often relish the opportunity to learn about the data behind a treatment, even if that means giving up their personal time. Developing the right format in which to share data with nurses in a way that is relevant for them is a smart approach and I’ve seen this work well when our clients have consulted with nurses directly and developed bespoke education based on their insights.
  3. A belief that nurses are already too busy. Nurses do have heavy workloads, however, they are also passionate about what they do. Like teaching, nursing is a vocation and it never ceases to amaze and impress me how much time nurses are willing to invest in initiatives that they feel will benefit the wider community and improve things for their patients. Working on initiatives with peers can also be a way for nurses to boost their professional development. Seeking nurse input early and being realistic about time commitments is a good way to ensure that this important group of professionals has a stake in a communications strategy. Better to ask than overlook this important HCP audience.

Building strong relationships with nurses can pay dividends for a company’s reputation in the longer term, as several of our clients have seen with their own bespoke educational nurse programmes. Nurses are fantastically well placed to change things at the coal face. A trusted advisor to consultants; a barometer for patient behaviour and trends; a force for change in practice at a local level. If you want to get something done, ask a busy person. If you want to impact patient care, ask a nurse.