This month’s issue of The American Journal of Nursing featured five letters in support of establishing an Office of the National Nurse. Karen Walker, RN from Hillsboro, Oregon, wrote the following letter:
“Two January articles, "The Top Nursing Story of 2008: Why Can't Nurses Just Get Along?"
(In the News) and "The Initiative to Create a National Nurse: Stalled"
(AJN Reports), have striking similarities. It's disappointing that our nursing leaders don't support the establishment of the Office of the National Nurse, which would clearly benefit our profession and improve public health.
What Teri Mills and the National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO) are proposing seems logical, practical, and cost-effective. Most nurses and nursing organizations agree that the position of chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) needs to be elevated, so it's difficult to understand exactly what the nursing establishment is opposed to. Professional nursing organizations are seeing a decline in membership; doesn't that make it even more apparent that we need a national nursing leader?”
Walker, K. (2009). Who's leading nursing? American Journal of Nursing
. 109, (4), pp 12.
Here is another letter that was sent to the NNNO Board that did not get chosen for publication:
Let’s not miss this golden opportunity to be major players in the momentum for realistic national health care reform. This is a genuine priority for the Obama administration who sees prevention as a cornerstone for meaningful change. Nursing has a significant national role to play promoting health and preventing illness and this is the time for nursing to speak with one positive, powerful, supportive voice.
That’s why I am troubled to read of organized nursing’s rejection of the proposed Office of the National Nurse, as reported in the January 2009 AJN Reports: The Initiative to Create a National Nurse. Their arguments seem disjointed and inconsistent.
For example, M. Elaine Tagliareni, president of the NLN and speaking for the Tri-Council essentially says why “create a brand new office when we already have a chief nurse officer of the USPHS.” And that, to me is the point. Now-to all nurse readers everywhere- Quiz time: Quick!! Name the Chief Nurse at USPHS and list one major achievement of 2008. Hmmm. I thought so. Neither can I. And yet- wouldn’t the easiest action be to elevate that position to full time, give that professional the opportunities to reach out to the public, and put a public face on nursing? As Carol Lindeman said, “nurses are knowledge workers.” Let us use that knowledge to work with the public.
We need someone, full time, to advocate for nursing involvement in health policy, someone to provide leadership for nursing in a way that both enhances the profession and strengthens nursing’s involvement in health care issues. We need someone whose examples of leadership and advocacy emphasis the vital importance of nursing to the health of the public. Such effectiveness would be a natural recruitment tool as well.
We need the Office of the National Nurse. We need a qualified professional to work in a complementary and very visible way with the Office of the Surgeon General, especially since President Obama is considering a highly regarded physician with media experience as Surgeon General. This will be a natural partnership for nursing.
One of ANA’s objections is that the proposals for health education “are limited to simple messages.” Why is this bad? Isn’t the health message on a pack of cigarettes a simple one? Isn’t the message to floss and brush your teeth a simple one? And what about the simple message to counter childhood obesity, to turn off the TV and go out and play?
The Office of the National Nurse builds on precedent. Look at the careers and accomplishments of Lucille Petry Leone and Faye Abdullah. Look at the leadership of Margretta Styles, who provided the blueprint for the Office of National Nurse almost 25 years ago, when she encouraged nurses to exercise their leadership potential in national and global health. Her dream for nursing included a strong image and a unified voice for nursing. Styles envisioned a nurse as Director-General of the World Health Organization and inspired us by quoting Nightingale: No system shall endure that does not march.
Let’s take another look at this proposal and all the good that it can do. Let’s acknowledge that great ideas can come from unexpected places, and that a National Nurse has much to offer the American public.
Patricia Van Betten RN, MEd.
Blue Diamond, Nevada
We look forward to hearing your opinions and welcome your feedback in the Comments section of this posting. If you desire a response, be sure to insert your email in the post.
The National Nursing Network Organization Team—Wednesday, April 15, 2009