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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

The Power of Prevention and the Role of Nurses

Published March 13, 2012 2:16 PM by Catlin Nalley

National Public Health Week (NPHW) is coming up April 2 to April 8; do you know what's happening in your community?

NPHW, which began in 1995, will focus on prevention with events centered on the theme, "A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement." Each day of the week will highlight different preventive measures that support healthier, longer lives. The daily themes include: active living and healthy eating, living tobacco- and drug-free and preventing alcohol abuse, preventing communicable diseases, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being.

Just before NPHW begins, the issue of prevention and public health will be taken to Washington, DC, by a volunteer delegation of the National Nursing Network Organization, to raise awareness and gain support for HR 3679: The National Nurse Act of 2011. The legislation calls for the appointment of a National Nurse for Public Health.

Who would fill this position? According to the bill's website, "Congress will designate that the existing chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), who also serves as the Assistant Surgeon General, be elevated to become a full-time position within the Office of the Surgeon General and be officially titled the ‘National Nurse for Public Health.'"

The responsibilities of this position would include: promoting prevention and healthy living nationwide, supporting the Surgeon General, encouraging nurses to promote prevention in their communities, increasing public awareness on the role of nursing and its contributions, and enhancing nursing education, to name a few.

Do you think the nursing profession and the nation as a whole would benefit from a National Nurse for Public Health?

posted by Catlin Nalley


I support HR 3679.  It elevates the nursing profession to a leadership level it is uniquely qualified for.  Preventive care and teaching are unique strengths of nurses.  The bill supports the recommendations of the IOM report, The Future of Nursing.  However, the language of the bill should read "...collaborating with and supporting the Surgeon General..."  Collaboration is a key activity under the recommendations of the IOM that pairs nurses in full partnership with physicians and other health care professionals.

Lisa, Graduate Student - RN, Univesity of Phoenix March 16, 2012 12:26 PM
Glastonbury CT

The Greater Passaic Valley Public Health Nurses’ Association thanks ADVANCE for saluting Public Health and for acknowledging the vital role of Public Health Nurses in promoting a healthier America through population-based prevention/wellness activities.

GPVPHNA supports establishment of a National Nurse for Public Health because we believe that

1.  The National Nurse will strengthen public health principles and the public health nursing perspective at a higher level of government.

2.  The National Nurse will be the voice of the collective tenets upon which all public health nurses base their practices.

3.  The National Nurse will be a visible presence in the media to advocate for public health issues.

The Greater Passaic Valley Public Health Nurses’ Association thanks the members of National Nursing Network Organization for their tenacity and dedication to establishing the position of National Nurse for Public Health. Likewise, we are grateful for legislators who, after listening to this message, recognize the need for and opportunity presented by the National Nurse Act of 2011 (HR 3679.)  

In keeping with this year's National Public Health Week, "A Healthier America Begins Today," GPVPHNA encourages other nursing organizations and public health groups to add their voices to the call for the National Nurse for Public Health to become a reality.  Speak up now for a healthier tomorrow!

Leslie Leonard, Public Health Nursing - RN, Pres. GPVPHNA March 14, 2012 12:58 PM
Clifton NJ

The National Nurse initiative is an idea of Teri Mills that has more that proved that it would work. Why the ANA feels it would be a duplication of services is beyond me.

The National Nurse would work next to the of o Surgeon General and promote wellness and prevention.

Anne Nowlin Nowlin, unemployed March 14, 2012 12:07 AM
Colorado Springs CO

I support this legislation because the Future of Nursing, Healthcare and the health of citizens around the world will depend on the knowledge and skills of the nurse. Iincluding nurses in all decisions related to healthcare will improve the quality of care, safety of patients, break the barriers and disparities in healthcare delivery. Nurses will lead in health education, health promotion and disease prevention. We always have. Everyone needs a nurse.

Evalyn Gossett, Nursing - MSN, RN, Educator March 13, 2012 10:02 PM
Highland IN

I support HR 3679:The National Nurse Act of 2011 because as nurses we know that the high costs of health care need to be contained. To do this, the public has to become health care literate. That is going to require a lot of public health education. Physicians don't have the time or reimbursement to do this. The responsibility falls to the nurses, and under one united front (The National Nurse) we can lead this charge and win this battle. Much of the chronic illness that drives health care costs up stems from making poor lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and understanding preventative care. %0d%0aThe National Nurse is a cost neutral bill and is non-partisan. There should be no reason we cannot make this a reality and improve the health status and outcomes of all Americans.

Kathy Quan, QI - RN BSN PHN, Hospice March 13, 2012 9:48 PM

I did my chaplain internship on the cardiac unit of a medical center, where I saw plainly that nurses, who interact most directly with patients and their families, are the most trusted members of the medical team. Nurses are, therefore, in a unique position to educate about prevention and offer timely support.  I have been following HR 3679: The National Nurse Act since its inception and stand strongly behind this legislation. Nurses do the heavy lifting in healthcare, both literally and figuratively.  When nurse friends recently told me there is a Chief Nursing Officer in this country, I had never heard of it before.  So I've been asking around and it seems the general public is likewise unaware of this role.  It's time we did a better job of highlighting the nursing profession and recentered our nation's focus on prevention.  I have a daughter-in-law and a niece who are studying nursing and care deeply about the future well being of nurses.

June M. Schulte, spiritual director and grandmother March 13, 2012 9:25 PM
Jericho VT

I support this legislation because it will be good for the nursing profession, to have a voice in Washington, especially since Healthcare is front and center. A role model to promote wellness and prevention.  With a National Nurse in place, organization at the state level will have a platform in which to base local efforts within the community.

Anne Gresbrink, Chemical dependency - LPN March 13, 2012 7:19 PM
Tigard OR

I support this legislation as it is a common sense approach to change the perspective in the country from a 'sick' system to one where we promote health and wellness.

Nurses are natural educators and having a planned strategy that would come down from the  Chief Nurse of the USPHS would provide a formal and organized approach to move forward. This is a critical step to meet the challenges the country's healthcare system faces. I hope all nurses take the time to read this bill and support it by contact their legislative representatives.

anne llewellyn, Healthcare - Dorland Health March 13, 2012 5:54 PM
Plantation FL

I support this legislation because it provides a full time recognized position toward health promotion activities.  Through the leadership of the National Nurse for Public Health, nurses can develop, distribute and promote activities in their own communities supported by a national effort.  I love the idea of having national awareness campaigns teaching people how to live healthier lives.  Who better than a Nurse leader to guide this effort?

Margaret, RN March 13, 2012 5:51 PM
Portland OR

I am in full support of HR 3679.  It will give recognition to the vital role nurses play in prevention.  It will give a voice to nurses and  give them a platform to emphasize education of the public in good health practices.  A National Nurse will be able to coordinate a program to organize nurses throughout the country and be a national spokesperson and advocate for wellness instead of just treatment for sickness.

Marcia Moody, State Government - Representative, NH State House March 13, 2012 5:04 PM
Concord NH

I heartily support the passage of HR 3679: The National Nurse Act of 2011. As a nurse blogger, former Public Health Nurse, and advocate for nurses and public health, I feel that the elevation of the Chief Nurse Officer to the position of National Nurse for Public Health will have a significant and measurable outcome vis-a-vis the public health of the nation.

With nurses being the most trusted profession in the United States for 12 of the last 13 years (according to an annual Gallup poll), having a high profile nurse working for the good of the general public makes good sense and will be a win-win situation for everyone involved. It may also serve as an encouragement to those seeking to enter the field of nursing.

Keith Carlson, Home Care - Registered Nurse March 13, 2012 5:01 PM
Santa Fe NM

I support this legislation because it will make the public more aware of the USPHS and the important roles nurses play to promote public health.  Having a highly visible National Nurse to promote public health is logical for a nation that is embarking on major healthcare innovation with greater focus on prevention.  Nurses are in every community, and they are trusted knowledgeable messengers who can be increasingly mobilized to advocate and promote local prevention efforts.  Recruitment may increase as youth considering nursing or other health careers become more aware of the public health arm of our healthcare system.

Susan Sullivan March 13, 2012 4:25 PM

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