A funny thing happened on the way to creating the Office of National Nurse.
We have one.
The leader that Teri Mills envisioned has been sitting in Washington all this time.
She is already in place.
She is already a nursing leader.
All she needs is the title and the authority to expand her position.
She is the Chief Nursing Officer of the United States Public Health service and her name is Rear Admiral Carol A. Romano.
A rose by any other name….? Not quite.
Here are the changes the Office of National Nurse will bring, as stated on the National Nurse website:
- Establish symbolic national leadership by elevating and strengthening the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS to make this position visible to the nursing profession and the public.
- Complement the work of the US Surgeon General.
- Promote involvement in the Medical Reserve Corps to improve the health and safety of the community.
- Incorporate proven evidence-based public health education when promoting prevention.
Sounds good, yes?
Then why aren’t the leaders of the nursing profession on board? This is a simple, yet profound change that will have far reaching results in terms of the visibility of nursing and a positive impact on public health.
This post was inspired by a recent article in Nursing Spectrum that is no longer available online. The article quoted many leaders of nursing groups who are opposed to this change in title. I was dumbfounded. I wrote to express my concerns and my support for the Office of National Nurse. Here is my letter to the editor of Nursing Spectrum, they asked for permission to use it so it may be in a future issue:
This is a response to your article, “National Nurse Debate Fuels Concerns” by Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, on November 9, 2007.
I’m a registered nurse and member of the Emergency Nurses Association and the California Nurses Association. I fully support making the position of Chief Nursing Officer into Office of the National Nurse.
In thirty years of nursing, I was never aware that this country had a Chief Nursing Officer. Having a visible, recognizable nursing leader would be a fantastic recruiting tool for the profession. It would increase the visibility of the United States Public Health Corps, put a new emphasis on public health nursing and increase awareness of the Medical Reserve Corps.
I want to see Rear Adm. Romano on TV, hear her opinions, have her opinions sought out regarding health care issues so that the public sees and hears that nursing is relevant. What a wonderful, under utilized role model we have already in place!
It is hard to grasp the reasoning behind the dissent expressed by the nursing leadership of our various organizations. Everything Teri Mills envisioned for the ONN is already in place! All that would be required would be funding to increase the visibility of this current national nursing leadership position.
Why is it so hard to envision this is a win-win situation for the country, for nursing and for our patients? Is it solely a question of money? Fund the Office of National Nurse and increase the visibility of the USPHC and their work in public health and you will have more nurses choosing public health as their specialty, which leads to greater patient education in the community and more efficient use of health facilities for care (better use of clinics, primary care providers such as Nurse Practitioners and appropriate use of the ER are just a few examples).
Ah, there is the rub. Funding. Everyone is afraid of losing their funding and so we once again see the disconnect between nursing leaders and those of us on the front lines. How will nursing ever get the respect it deserves when its leaders cannot even support the expansion of a leadership position that already exists? The Office of National Nurse is a grass-roots effort funded by educators and staff nurses (like me!) who see the need for a more visible presence of nursing in the media and in the communities. The American Association of Nurse Executives can’t see funding the Office of National Nurse because they feel all money should go toward fixing the nursing shortage. The quote from their representative, Jo Ann Webb, states, “…we don’t see the need for a national nurse.”
With all due respect to the AONE, we already have one! Her name is Rear Adm. Romano. Expand that position into the Office of National Nurse. Fund it! Utilize Rear. Adm. Romano in a way that every citizen in the United States knows we have a national nursing leader. That message will not be lost on the young men and women who are choosing their careers.
There are no losers should the CNO become the Office of National Nurse. Why that can be so obvious to a staff nurse and not to the leadership of the ANA, the AACN or the AONE is hard to fathom.
Make the Chief Nursing Officer position the Office of National Nurse. It is right, it is needed and it makes sense.
Kim McAllister, RN