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In a U-Turn, the ANA Supports the National Nurse Act

Wallis, Laura

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: August 2015 - Volume 115 - Issue 8 - p 16
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000470387.79781.68
In the News

Changes to an earlier bill led to a shift in position.

Laura Wallis

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Figure.

The National Nurse Act (NNA) of 2015 was introduced in the 114th Congress, sponsored by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY). The primary aim of the bill is to redesignate the chief nurse officer (CNO), a post that already exists within the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), as the national nurse for public health. The hope is to amplify the nurse's voice in the conversation on American health, emphasizing preventive health when millions of Americans live without insurance or access to primary care and enhancing recognition of nursing's importance to health care.

The NNA, said Johnson in an e-mail statement, “would provide a leading voice for the 3.1 million RNs in this country by focusing on national priorities like health promotion, health literacy, and… health disparities.”

The NNA is a reintroduction and reframing of the NNA of 2013, introduced in the 113th Congress. The American Nurses Association (ANA) backs the current bill, calling it “legislation that strengthens America's health care system” and joining 105 nursing and other health care organizations in endorsing it. (See In the News, May 2013, and AJN Reports, January 2009, for AJN’s previous reporting on the progress of this legislation.)

The ANA's support represents a shift in position from 2013. At that time, ANA chief executive officer Marla J. Weston sent a letter of concern to Johnson stating that although it was clearly well intentioned, the change of name “would not effectively serve to boost the role of this federal leadership position.” The letter warned that the shift could dilute the CNO's authority in the domestic and global political arena and in the public eye.

The bill remained popular in the nursing community, however, and the dialogue continued. Between the 113th Congress and the 114th, says Johnson, the ANA gathered feedback from many interested parties, including other nursing organizations, on ways to strengthen the legislation. The revised legislation reflects that feedback.

“Together we were able to agree upon language in the National Nurse Act of 2015 that clarifies that the [CNO of the PHS] is the same individual who would serve as the national nurse for public health,” says ANA president Pam Cipriano. The bill describes the designation as comparable to the president of the United States also being referred to as commander in chief.

The rank of the national nurse for public health will also be raised to that of other uniformed CNOs, and she or he will be the U.S. representative in the World Health Organization's Global Forum for Government Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers and “serve as a member of the Federal Nursing Service Council.” According to Cipriano, “The revised bill strengthens the focus of the CNO role to advocate for programs in public health and advise on policy.” Additionally, it calls for a biennial report to Congress on the “state of the Commissioned Corps of the PHS Nurse Category.” With these changes, the ANA's board voted to support this legislation, “which recognizes the important role nurses play in improving the health of the nation.”

For more information on the National Nurse Act of 2015, visit http://nationalnurse.org.—Laura Wallis

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