The Public Face of Nursing: H.R. 1119 Gains Support

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May 11th, 2011

By, Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN

Nursing may soon have a very public face if a bill currently in the national House of Representatives can win support and be voted into law. H.R. 1119, the National Nurse Act of 2011 calls for the establishment of a new office, the National Nurse for Public Health under the Office of the Surgeon General. The bill is gaining public awareness and currently has nine co-sponsors in the House.

Supported by the National Nursing Network Organization, H.R. 1119 would give nurses a prominent public figure in Washington, D.C. to represent and advocate for nurses and the people they serve. The National Nurse for Public Health would play a key role, alongside the Surgeon General, in promoting key health issues and disease prevention nationwide.

Teri Mills, an Oregon nurse who originally conceived of the idea for a National Nurse, took her idea public in an editorial in the New York Times, back in 2005. Mills proposed duties for the role of National Nurse, including: health care education through weekly internet broadcasts; signing up participants for a National Nurse Corp which would organize community health programs; and, with a National Nurse could bring public recognition to the valuable work nurses perform every day and that might attract more young people to the profession.

Mills' vision is seeing fruition and many of her ideas are reflected in the body of H.R. 1119.

Among the duties a National Nurse for Public Health shall carry out are to:

  • Provide 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
  • Represent the Surgeon General and the agencies of Public Health Service in communications with groups and societies concerned with nursing issues at the local, State, national, and international levels.
  • Provide guidance and advice to the Surgeon General and the Nurse Professional Advisory Committee on matters such as standards, recruitment, retention, readiness, and career development of nurses employed by and contracted with agencies of the Public Health Service.
  • Conduct media campaigns and make personal appearances.
  • Provide guidance and leadership for activities to promote the public health, including encouraging nurses and other health professionals to be volunteers and developing projects that educate the public about and engage the public in prevention practices to achieve better health.
  • Provide guidance and leadership to encourage nurses to engage in furthering their education in order to conduct nursing research, increase the awareness of evidence-based practice, and educate future nurses.
  • Provide guidance and leadership for activities to increase public safety and emergency preparedness.

The National Nurse for Public Health will participate in the National Health Priorities of Healthy People 2020 by:

  • Identifying national health priorities.
  • Encouraging volunteer nurses and other individuals, and strengthening the relationship between government agencies and health-related national organizations.

Through community based projects the National Nurse for Public Health will :

Provide guidance and coordination on recommended activities to organizations; acknowledge successful programs and encourage their replication; promote the dissemination of evidence-based practice in educating the public on health promotion and disease prevention activities; and monitor activities being conducted through the collection and evaluation of data to determine if national health priorities are being addressed.

Ensure that media campaigns include focus on the national health priorities.

Through awards of grants or contracts, evaluate the activities encouraged by the National Nurse for Public Health and conducted by community-based, nonprofit organizations to determine the extent to which such activities have succeeded in carrying out national health priorities.

Disseminate information to governmental agencies, schools, and community-based, nonprofit organizations interested in health promotion and improving public health through community action.

There are nurses in the upper echelons of public health administration. Currently, the U.S. Public Health Chief Nurse Officer serves as Assistant Surgeon General, representing the Surgeon General's interests and opinions. The goal of the organizations and individuals supporting this bill 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."

To view H.R. 1119 in its full text go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.1119.IH:

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