On National Nurses Day, Merkley and Capito Introduce Bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Honoring National Nurses Day, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) today introduced the bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2015, legislation that would elevate the role of nurses in America’s public health by designating a National Nurse for Public Health.

The National Nurse position would be created by transforming and elevating an existing position within the U.S. Public Health Service, the Chief Nurse Officer. Similarly to the Surgeon General, the National Nurse for Public Health would help raise awareness among the American public about disease prevention and healthy living. The position would provide a publicly-visible nurse leader who would collaborate with other health care leaders to address health disparities and set goals for improved public health.

“As the husband of a nurse, I know firsthand the hard work that nurses put into caring for their patients and helping them live healthy lives,” said Merkley. “As we celebrate National Nurses Day, it is important to recognize the essential role of nurses in our health care system. It’s time we had a National Nurse for Public Health who is empowered to act as a national leader in improving our public health.”

“Nurses play vital role in the healthcare industry and the overall health and well-being of our communities. The designation of a National Nurse for Public Health will not only create more awareness about the important services nurses provide, it will lead to a healthier society. I am proud to join Senator Merkley to introduce this bipartisan legislation recognizing the compassion, commitment and contributions of our hard-working nurses,” said Senator Capito.

Nurses represent the largest single component of the health care profession with approximately 3,100,000 registered nurses. With a National Nurse for Public Health providing a uniting voice and national leadership, American nurses’ power to transform their patients’ lives and to improve public health outcomes would be even greater.

Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity pose the single greatest threat to the health of Americans and a serious threat to our nation’s economy. Nurses provide key services for the prevention and management of these conditions. The National Nurse for Public Health will promote prevention, help improve outcomes, and guide national, state and local efforts in addressing the nation’s health.

The National Nurse Act provides an opportunity to:

  • Bring forth the significant and trusted voice of nurses to the ongoing conversation about health and health care in America.
  • Deliver a unified, prominent message about the importance of health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Set a new standard for a more accurate and realistic recognition of nursing’s importance to health and health care in the United States.
  • Engage and inspire increased participation of nurses and other health professionals in prevention, including replicating successful health promotion activities in their own local communities.
  • Provide a national role model inspiring young Americans to enter a career in nursing at a time when the need for nurses in the U.S. is expected to grow greatly over the coming decades.

The legislation is matched in the U.S. House of Representatives by H.R. 379, the National Nurse Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Peter King (R-NY).