published last month by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlighted the need to strengthen and expand public health nursing leadership and programs. The presence of public health nurses has decreased significantly in the past few decades due to lack of funding, loss of exposure of students to clinical experiences, and a large retirement of the public health nursing workforce. These factors have driven the public health system into decentralization and fragmentation, and the role of the public health nurse has become less recognized and blurred with the role of the community health nurse.
The reports also cite public health experts as calling for increased nursing executive leadership at the state level to direct public health initiatives and advocate for funding. Various experts acknowledge in these reports that a more collaborative systematic approach to funding and attention to the importance of the public health nurse role are needed. We found that although the reports cite numerous examples of successful community level prevention programs that save lives and taxpayer dollars, these programs could have a greater impact on the health of the nation if replicated on a broader scale.
RWJF recognizes that historically nurses have been frontline deliverers of public health initiatives addressing prevention of communicable diseases and response to disaster and emergency situations, “Yet despite their central role in these endeavors, nurses were typically absent from key policy discussions.” Charting Nursing's Future, Part Two
As the public health demands of the 21st century become more evident, the need for a national focus on prevention, health protection, and promotion for the population of the country, not just the populations within each state, is clearer. The Office of the National Nurse would provide the representation, visibility, and advocacy now needed for the nursing profession. A National Nurse would also be a spokesperson for the policies and funding crucial to boosting the nation's public health infrastructure.
The National Nursing Network Organization Team—Monday, November 17, 2008