February 20, 2009, 10:53 am


The National Nurse initiative has come a long way from those early days as a grass-roots initiative to appoint a visible, national nursing representative to promote healthy living and the nursing profession.

Unfortunately, some of our biggest nursing organizations don’t seem to get it.

This is NOT a new position and it WILL NOT cost the government or the taxpayers anything more than what is already funded!

So why is CNA/NNOC against it?

First, let’s take a look at where we stand now, directly from the National Nurse website:

Why is an Office of the National Nurse Needed?

To slow the growing epidemics of preventable diseases:

  • Current estimates predict a 42% increase in the 7 chronic diseases.
  • Risk of type II diabetes is high for more than 41 million Americans.
  • $1.3 TRILLION annual economic impact of the most common chronic diseases.
  • The U.S. ranks 19th in preventable deaths.

Promote health awareness, increase health literacy, and reduce health disparities:

  • Only 31% of Americans can name all 5 heart attack warning signs.
  • Ninety million Americans have poor health literacy resulting in higher mortality.
  • Death rates from stroke are 40% higher in African American adults compared to Caucasian adults.

To promote health careers and increased resources:

  • Severe nursing shortages are projected to continue.
  • Public health workforce needs are critical.
  • Public health infrastructure must be strengthened.

To enhance visibility and public recognition of nursing:

  • Raise awareness of diverse careers in nursing.
  • Demonstrate nursing leadership and autonomy.
  • Encourage youth to explore careers in nursing and healthcare.

Who Will Be the National Nurse?

Congress will designate the existing Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the US 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 prevention. Our goal is to elevate and enhance the Office of the PHS Chief Nurse to bring more visibility to the critical role nursing occupies in promoting, protecting, and advancing the nation’s health.

What Will the Office of the National Nurse Do?

The Office of the National Nurse will perform those responsibilities currently being executed by the CNO and will particularly have these more prominent roles:

Support the Surgeon General’s Focus on Prevention

  • Assist in the initiation of a nationwide cultural shift to prevention.
  • Bolster efforts to focus the public on healthy living.
  • Intensify roles for nurses, including students and retirees, in community health promotion.
  • Provide greater support to the Surgeon General in calling for improvements in health literacy and reduction in health disparities.

Develop Nurses as Community Health Advocates

  • Encourage all nurses to spread prevention messages in their communities.
  • Encourage participation of nurses in Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units.
  • Provide leadership to network with existing volunteer health promotion efforts.
  • Strengthen linkages with providers, nursing programs, and public health leadership.

Promote Professional Nursing

  • Serve as a visible national spokesperson for professional nursing.
  • Increase public awareness of nursing roles and contributions.
  • Enhance nursing recruitment and education throughout all communities.
  • Support and justify additional funding for nursing education, research and service.


Pretty impressive, isn’t it? We already have the position in place, we just want to see nursing represented in a prominent position in government. It threatens no one’s authority, it makes the nursing profession more visible and costs no more that what our current CNO is doing right now. The position already exists!

We need to let CNA/NNOC know that we are behind this initiative.

For all the money CNA/NNOC pays out to political initiatives I have zero agreement with (my dues, for what it is worth), here is one thing positive that they can do for nurses that will cost them nothing!

An endorsement. The Office of National Nurse, if initiated, will take NOTHING away from CNA/NNOC or the bedside staff nurse. It will be a positive move for the ENTIRE PROFESSION.

So let’s get busy.

The Office of National Nurse dovetails beautifully with CNA/NNOC’s proposed plan for universal health care.

There are dues-paying members of CNA/NNOC who support the initiative (raising hand!).

CNA/NNOC has a huge voice and they are supposed to be speaking for us.

Now we need to let them know it.


Deborah Burger, RN, sits on the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents. As I understand it, our colleague believes that the Office of National Nurse creates a new entity (it does not) and requires additional funding (it does not).

Please send a respectful email or call Ms. Burger and let her know that you support the Office of National Nurse.

Her office number is (510) 273 – 2200

Her email is “dburger at calnurses dot org”.

Nurses can call from anywhere, but we especially would like you to call if you support the ONN and you are a member of CNA/NNOC.

I don’t get “political” very often, but this transcends politics and benefits everyone and every nurse.

I’m making the call.


  • Healthcare Today

    February 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    URGENT: CALL CNA /NNOC TODAY // Emergiblog…

    Why we need a National Nurse and how you can make it happen….

  • Obama Promotes Nurse to Lead

    February 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    […] A NATIONAL NURSE is STILL NEEDED Meanwhile, the Office of the National Nurse campaign moves forward. Read this terrific post from Kim at Emergiblog. […]

  • retired nurse

    February 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    What epidemic of chronic diseases?
    Immunization levels are high, lifespans are the highest in our country’s history.

    I can think of much better use of critically needed nurses than to take them away from bedside nursing to support the Surgeon General’s preventive health “healthy lifestyle” agenda, telling people to eat right and exercise.

  • Trusted.MD Network

    February 20, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Obama Promotes Nurse to Lead…

  • PedsNurse

    February 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    To the previous post… “What epidemic of chronic diseases?”…..
    Sure, immunization rates are high, and this has lead to decreased morbidity and mortality from these infectious diseases. However, greater lifespans do not always equate to improved quality of life….

    I’m sure we’ve heard about heart disease, type 2 diabetes, copd, etc….. these are chronic diseases with strong links to negative health behaviors. Nobody is asking nurses to step away from the bedside to deliver these preventive health messages….. Nurses do this everyday, in all different settings.

    With a National Nurse leading the way, nurses can join together in an effort to improve public awareness of preventable risk factors and encourage healthy lifestyle choices among the public as a whole. Nurses can be proactive, rather than just reactive…. We can promote a cultural shift in prevention that will improve the health of our fellow Americans.

    The position exists….simply elevate the CNO position to FT status and re-title it as the “National Nurse” to provide improved visibility to this important office.

    I believe it is time for a change….

  • Margaret

    February 23, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Hi Kim,
    How does “elevation to a full-time status” not require additional funds? No criticiscm, I’m just curious.

  • beastarzmom

    February 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Hey – check out Medscape today – you’re featured!

  • Jeanne Taverne

    January 14, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Volunteer for Haiti immediately

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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