A doctor weighs in on the National Nurse
January 2012 -- This month many U.S. blogs have covered the recent introduction in Congress of the National Nurse Act of 2011, the latest version of the legislation conceived and relentlessly pursued by Oregon nurse Teri Mills (below) to create an Office of the National Nurse. For example, on January 11, Brian Klepper posted a short piece on the blog "The Doctor Weighs In" that expresses support for the new bill. Dr. Klepper, whose doctorate is in speech, hearing, and language, reports that on December 15, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the new bill (H.R. 3679). Klepper explains that the bill "would elevate the existing Chief Nurse Officer of the US Public Health Service to the National Nurse for Public Health, a new full time leadership position that can focus nationally on health promotion and disease prevention priorities." In explaining the basic idea behind the National Nurse, Klepper quotes from the op-ed Mills originally published in The New York Times in 2005 (see our analysis of that op-ed). The excerpt argues that nurses are trusted professionals with a preventative focus that could address some of the nation's most pressing health problems. Klepper endorses these ideas, noting that "physicians may drive care, but nurses are on the front line with patients delivering it," and he urges readers to contact their Representatives to express support for the bill. This is a helpful post, though the suggestion that physicians "drive" care while nurses "deliver" it misses the scope and importance of nurses' autonomous practice. Nurses do deliver care prescribed by physicians, but they also provide a range of expert nursing care that nurses drive themselves and that is independent of physicians. In fact, this care often requires nurses to advocate against physician prescriptions and care plans. In any case, we thank Klepper for his support of the National Nurse, which is a promising way to improve public health and understanding of the value of nursing.