Profiles in Nursing

Hon. Tricia Hunter, Expert in Nursing Scope of Practice

This nurse is the Executive Director for ANA/CA and the founding partner of a lobbying company specializing in healthcare advocacy.

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, PHN, BSN
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Hon Tricia Hunter, Nursing ExpertAmong other things, Tricia Hunter is a juggler. Working from offices in both Sacramento and San Diego seems quite enough. But she also manages family (when we spoke, she was holding a lively two and a half year old grandchild) and an impressive volunteer schedule. In writing about her, it’s hard to know where to start.

To begin with, she is the lobbyist, since 1999, and the Executive Director, since 2001, for the American Nurses Association/ California. She is also the founding partner of Government Relations Group, a lobbying company that specializes in advocacy work pertaining to health care, education, and public safety. Both of these roles allow Hunter, a 1983 graduate of UCLA as a clinical nurse specialist, to work on her main interest: nursing scope of practice.

Hunter puts the public, our patients, first. “I got involved in the whole fight for nursing… believing that a workforce that is appropriately educated and has the appropriate clinical background is important in assuring we have a workforce that protects the public.” She has served twice on the State Board of Nursing, including two years as its president, on the California Medical Assistance Commission and as Special Assistant to the Governor in the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Before redistricting, she also represented the 76th district (San Diego) in the state assembly.

All this has given her a unique perspective on California nursing. When asked about the different levels of preparation recognized by the state, she says, “There is no such thing as a two year nurse in California… we need to figure out a way to give them (ADN graduates) credit for those three and half years (including prerequisites), whether it is a bridge of one semester or the ability for community colleges to grant bachelors degrees.” She continues, “Degree granting is a problem in the state of California… that is one of the challenges we face as those who are advocating for nursing.”

s this the biggest issue for California finding nurses? “No, our most critical problem facing nursing is our aging education workforce and having enough education slots for nurses.” And staffing ratios? Hunter sees the current provisions as so rigid that with rising acuities there will be worsening problems; procedures for handling issues at the local level of the individual hospital or union also remain inflexible.

What are some areas in which Tricia Hunter has had influence? “As an assembly woman, I carried legislation that allowed our advanced practice nurses to be primary care providers. That had significant impact on, first, MediCal; but it opened the doors for private insurance as well, because most insurances don’t have a separate panel for their MediCal clients.”

She also recalls her effort as a lobbyist to protect the title of nurse. ”You can’t call somebody a nurse unless they are licensed. So we protect the title; we allow certified nurse aides, but otherwise you have to be an LVN or RN to be called a nurse… if you are a licensee, you have to have a name badge or some recognition somewhere so someone can tell what your credentials are.”

She has not, however, “left the bedside.” Hunter also makes multiple trips each year to volunteer with Pacific Smiles, a children’s charity offering craniofacial and cardiac surgery in Ukraine, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Whether she functions as a circulating nurse, or scrub, or administrator, she finds her work satisfying.

What’s next on her agenda? Working in Washington, perhaps? No, Hunter says. She loves what she does; and for what interests her most—scope of practice—Sacramento is the right place and now is the right time.

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