Have you heard of the National Nurse for Public Health? Can you imagine having the patience, determination and relentless nature to wait 13 years for a Bill to be heard in committee? Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE ® is the thought leader behind the idea of having a National Nurse. In 2005, Teri had this Op-Ed published in the New York Times:
Teri’s NYT Op-ed captured national attention by providing a compelling case for a nurse to lead a national health promotion and education campaign. Based on the momentum that originated through the popularity of the article, Teri launched the National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO) to garner traction for the campaign for a National Nurse for Public Health (NNPH). This grassroots effort has grown steadily over the past 13 years and most recently The National Nurse Act of 2017 was re-introduced by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), the first nurse elected to Congress, and Congressman Pete King (NY-2). A Senate companion bill, S. 1106, is co-led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV).
Pictured above: Teri Mills with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
National Nurse Act of 2017
“This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Department of Health and Human Services to designate the Chief Nurse Officer of the Public Health Service as the National Nurse for Public Health.
The duties of this position include: (1) providing leadership and coordination of Public Health Service nursing professional affairs for the Office of the Surgeon General and other agencies of the Public Health Service, (2) conducting outreach and education, and (3) providing guidance and leadership for activities that will increase public safety and emergency preparedness.
The National Nurse for Public Health must: (1) participate in the identification of national health priorities, (2) encourage volunteerism of nurses and strengthen the relationship between government agencies and health-related national organizations, and (3) promote the dissemination of evidence-based practice in educating the public on health promotion and disease prevention activities.” – H.R.1651 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)
Here is Teri Mills’ message of Nursing Advocacy with steps we can take to move this important legislation forward:
“You can have a powerful impact in supporting a National Nurse for Public Health by writing a letter to your elected official to encourage their support.
The National Nurse Act now boasts 109 co-sponsors for H.R. 1651. [ https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1106/cosponsors?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22sen.+merkley%22%5D%7D&r=1] and 100 co-sponsors [https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1651/cosponsors?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+1651%22%5D%7D&r=1]. Supporting this legislation is an excellent way to elevate the role of nurses in public health and disease prevention as the nation continues to face a rise in opioid addiction and an increase in obesity that contributes to heart disease and cancer.
Further, a National Nurse for Public Health would be a helpful resource in reducing the health disparities that continue to plague our nation. Researchers discovered in 2002 that people of color are at much greater risk of developing complications from chronic health conditions and also receive care that puts them at risk. The report,“Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25032386] published by the Institute of Medicine, found that people of color received inadequate medication for heart disease; were less likely to receive needed surgery such as coronary bypass and transplants; and they failed to receive adequate kidney dialysis. Amputations were 3.6 times higher in black people than white with all other factors being equal. Nurses are ubiquitous and present in every community. The nursing profession continues to be recognized for being able to translate medical jargon into culturally sensitive messages. A National Nurse for Public Health would provide a uniting voice and leadership to begin reducing these shocking health disparities.
The following letter template makes reaching out to your elected official quick and easy:
Dear ______________________________(Legislator or Editor)
As a nurse, concerned about the health of our nation, I work daily with patients and members of the public who would benefit from the expertise of a National Nurse for Public Health. Congress is taking notice by supporting The National Nurse Act (H.R. 1651 and S. 1106) that will provide this unique designation to an existing nursing position, the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the Public Health Service (PHS). The goal is to create a more visible identity for the CNO to lead improvements in Americans’ health and raise the profile of the entire USPHS.
Why is this action critically important? Chronic diseases, many which are preventable, are the most prevalent of all health problems. As the nation grapples with an opioid epidemic and escalating rates a mental illness, nursing leadership is critical. The potential of the nursing workforce to improve our nation’s health is too great a resource to waste. Nurses are more trusted and spend more time with patients than any other healthcare provider. Year after year, Gallup polls affirm that Americans respect and listen to nurses on health issues. The National Nurse Act of 2017 will highlight and expand nurses’ important roles and will maximize contributions that nurses can make daily to promote wellness and disease prevention.
There is no better time to validate the contributions of nurses, provide respect and express genuine appreciation for our valuable nursing workforce. I hope you feel the same and will sign up to co-sponsor this important legislation.
Thank you for your consideration.
For additional tips on how to locate your legislator, communicate with an elected official and engage in grassroots activism, please visit the National Nursing Network Organization’s Take Action link. [http://nationalnurse.org/takeAction.shtml]”
– Teri Mills, MS, RN, CNE®
Teri Mills, MS, RN, CNE ®, Dynamic and dedicated leader in nursing education and nursing practice. Committed to advancing the nursing profession and advocating for health equity for all Americans.