Pamela Cipriano, President of the ANA

Profiles in Nursing

Pamela Cipriano, President of the ANA

Leading 3 million American nurses

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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In an interview with the website Disruptive Women in Health Care back in December 2013 — months before she became the 35th president of the American Nurses Association (ANA) — Pamela Cipriano, RN, Ph.D., NEA-BC, FAAN, described herself as “a perpetual volunteer.” Cipriano’s determination to lend her talents and leadership skills wherever they are needed could stand as a mission statement for her entire professional career, which has led her from the bedside to increasingly varied and complex academic, administrative and management roles.

She was elected ANA president in June 2014 and reelected two years later. Her role makes her responsible for representing the interests of the nation’s 3.6 million registered nurses, a position that has twice earned her a spot on Modern Healthcare’s annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.”

Put a Stake in the Ground

Cipriano’s tenure as leader of the ANA has had several recurring themes. The first is her ongoing effort to have nurses be — and be seen as — leaders and shapers of the modern healthcare system, with a place in the boardroom as well as at the bedside. Patient advocacy is a core professional standard for nurses, but in her keynote address to ANACalifornia last October, Cipriano reaffirmed her belief that nurses also have an ethical imperative to lead.

“It’s time that we put a stake firmly in the ground and claim that leadership role as ours,” she wrote in a 2015 editorial in American Nurse Today. “Right now, many healthcare professionals are willing to take the lead as care coordinators. But nurses are already there.”

Take Care of Yourselves!

A second theme is Cipriano’s determination to help nurses better care for themselves. Under her leadership, the ANA has developed many campaigns and resources to support both better health for nurses and safer patient care. Cipriano says the two are closely intertwined. In another 2015 American Nurse Today editorial, she described a close call she had as a nursing student and young staff nurse when she dozed off behind the wheel of her car. “I realized then that getting adequate rest — despite working rotating shifts and trying to maintain a normal life — was critical to my own well-being and that of my patients,” she wrote.

Nurses and the Fate of the ACA

Another major focus of Cipriano’s current term as ANA president is likely to be the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a law that Cipriano has described as “one of the most significant pieces of legislation that we’ve seen since the mid-20th century.” The new administration campaigned on a promise to dismantle the ACA and some Congressional Republicans have also taken aim at Medicare and Medicaid.

Working Nurse asked Cipriano for her thoughts on how nursing will be affected. She replied:

Nurses know that without care, people suffer, have a poorer quality of life and die earlier.

Should changes promote more community-based care, nurses will provide leadership to enhance care coordination and access to primary care.

Should changes occur that disadvantage citizens so they cannot get care, nurses and healthcare teams will be the safety net in hospitals and emergency rooms, which will perpetuate the inappropriate use of high-cost care.

Nurses want to see a system that enables all people, regardless of economic status, to reap the benefits of healthcare services that address their needs, with the goal of promoting and maintaining health.


Cipriano adds that “regardless of any changes that might come about in a new administration, access to healthcare must be assumed as a human right, with a standard package of essential services for all Americans.” The ANA made this same point in an open letter to the president-elect on December 5.

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