We Need a National Nurse! What YOU Can Do
I first learned of the grassroots campaign to establish an Office of The National Nurse back in Spring 2009. A fellow nursing student and I were invited to witness testimony before the House Health Committee at our State Capitol in Salem, Oregon. During the proceedings, committee members shared moving stories about how nurses had touched their lives, bringing them comfort and care during some of their most vulnerable moments. That day, the committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution to support legislation in Congress to establish the Office of The National Nurse.
Education and Advocacy
Nurses are all too aware of the critical problems facing public health. The good news is that most causes of chronic disease, like obesity, are preventable, which is where we nurses come into play. We believe that it is nurses who should be standing at the forefront of a movement to educate people on preventing illness in the first place, before it becomes a chronic disease.
Nurses spend more time with patients than any other medical provider. Year after year, the Gallup poll indicates that Americans respect nurses and listen to them on health issues. By offering disease prevention education in our communities, we can help to decrease soaring healthcare costs and end needless suffering, initiating a more healthful society.
We believe in turning the focus to “health care” from “sick care.” This has been the impetus and inspiration behind The National Nurse Act of 2010, HR 4601, legislation introduced by Oregon’s Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
The National Nurse would replace and elevate the status of the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Office of the National Nurse integrates the American Nurses Association’s blueprint, Nursing’s Agenda for the Future (2002), as proposed by 19 national nursing associations and organizations.
The National Nurse will:
• Be a visible, recognizable public health leader.
• Be a voice for health advocacy and literacy, a role for which nurses are perfectly positioned.
• Complement the purpose and mission of other nurse advocacy groups.
• Inspire nurse involvement and volunteerism.
• Portray nursing in a positive light, counterbalancing the negative images of nurses often seen in the media.
Calling All Nurses!
There are currently 3.4 million nurses who work on the front lines of practice in the United States healthcare system. Even though we are the largest group of healthcare service providers in the nation, nurses hold too few positions of influence to have a national voice that is loud enough to impact the nation’s health.
That is why we are calling on every nurse reading this article for your support in helping us move this legislation forward.
Currently HR 4601 has the support of over 100 prominent organizations and nurse leaders. Four state legislative bodies (Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Vermont) have passed resolutions urging Congress to enact legislation in order to establish an Office of the National Nurse.
Florence Nightingale said, “Nursing is a thing, which, unless we are making progress every year, every month, every week, take my word for it, we are going back.”
Nurses are galvanized by this proposal and want to keep moving forward. We have unique skills and insights to offer the public. We understand that preventive medicine is better than reactive medicine; the quality of life matters. That is why we must secure the passage of the National Nurse Act of 2010.
As Oregon State Senator and nurse, Laurie Monnes Anderson, stated, “this is a common-sense solution to the healthcare crisis.”
Where Was the Nurse?
During the H1N1 scare we heard from the CDC, from WHO, from President Obama, from the Director of Homeland Security, and from physicians on various news broadcasts — where was the voice of the nurse? Meanwhile, it was the nurses and the student nurses who were out volunteering at immunization clinics all across the country!
A National Nurse will be that visible beacon, standing out as a leader in health care. Let’s begin working today to make our voices stronger and louder! Nurses are the voice of health — let’s be the voice of education, health promotion and disease prevention!
If this campaign inspires you to get involved and become a part of this grassroots effort, please:
• Contact your US Representative and ask that they become a co-sponsor of The National Nurse Act of 2010.
• Write the NNNO Board of Directors (firstname.lastname@example.org) for talking points and a copy of the signatory letter (PDF).
• Publish an article about The National Nurse Act of 2010 in your organization’s newsletter to educate others about the bill. (Feel free to reprint this article from Working Nurse.)
• Request professional organizations that you belong to become an endorser of HR 4601.
• Stay updated by signing up to receive the National Nurse Newsletter
• Become a fan of the National Nurse Campaign on Facebook.
Elizabeth McPhee, RN, was 2009-10 president of the Portland, Oregon chapter of the National Student Nurses Association, Phi Theta Kappa, and National Nurse Advocacy Team Member.