How did you celebrate the important role nurses play in health care during National Nurses Week?

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How did you celebrate the important role nurses play in health care during National Nurses Week?

Like I do on every National Nurses Day, I pause and reflect. So much has changed in the past 33 years since the day was officially recognized and is celebrated by millions every year. Yet so much remains the same. Nurses are at the heart of caring for patients and their families. According to the annual Gallup Survey, nurses are the most trusted profession. They are integral partners in care coordination.

As a university professor, research scientist, public health advisor, and nurse activist, I celebrate National Nurses Day by looking to the future. Nurses of the past, such as Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, and Dorothea Dix, broke ground in health and health care. Nurses of the present, such as Pamela Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN and Margaret Wilmoth, PhD, MSS, RN, FAAN, work to transform the way health care is delivered to all individuals. Nurses of the future are the nursing students of today and the nurses of tomorrow.

Nurses are advocates by profession and by personality. We champion patients, peers, and profession like no one else. Nurses put patients first and adhere to the highest standards of evidence-based research, giving state-of-the-art care. We are neonatal and pediatric specialists; gerontology and palliative care nurses. And in my case, and that of my colleagues, we are oncology nurses. We see cancer up close, and find joy in providing care for those affected.

National Nurses Day is a testament to the nation’s understanding and appreciation of the role of the nurse in health care. Nurses are honored by this annual day and will continue to move the profession forward for better care and treatment of our patients. It is essential that the provision of health care continue to acknowledge the many faces of providers who are elemental in patient-centered care.

Margaret Barton-Burke
President, ONS

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Margaret Barton-Burke
President, ONS

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Margaret Barton-Burke, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the president of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). She is the Mary Ann Lee Endowed Professor of Oncology Nursing at the College of Nursing, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a research scientist at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. Dr. Barton-Burke is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN). She is a founding member of the Massachusetts Pain Initiative, the Massachusetts Cancer Pain Initiative, and several other cancer nursing initiatives. She has received numerous fellowships and most recently was named to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) 2014–2015 Leadership for Academic Nursing Program (LANP) Fellowship. Dr. Barton-Burke is the Chairperson of the AACN Research Leadership Network.

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How did you celebrate the important role nurses play in health care during National Nurses Week?

As a nurse, I’ve found one of the most rewarding aspects of my profession and chosen path is the ability to advocate for patients not just at the bedside, but also at the policy table. Nurses are in the unique and privileged position of caring for patients holistically: before, after, and during treatment. This approach can be extended to the lawmaking process, where a nurse’s voice is valuable in communicating how new policy or regulatory proposals would impact not only the health care system but patients themselves, and their families.

In my career, I’ve had the honor of caring for patients during their time of need and advocate on their behalf in Washington, DC. While in nursing school, I became politically active, serving as President of the Texas Nursing Students’ Association and then as President for the National Student Nurses Association, where I traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for my fellow pre-professional nursing students. These experiences led me to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where I worked in Neurology on clinical trials and came to appreciate the importance of incorporating the patient perspective into new developments and policies in the health care field.

National Nurses Week provided us with a time to recognize the tenacious advocacy and role of nurses for patients.  It’s not surprising that again in 2014, nursing was rated the most trustworthy profession by the Gallup polling organization.

Nurses are patient advocates first and foremost, whether that means relaying a patient’s concerns about a treatment plan, fighting for necessary access to treatments and medicines, or meeting with lawmakers to discuss how a Medicaid policy, for example, would impact a health care practice. Incorporating the health care professional’s perspective and patient advocacy angle is key to successful programs that will ultimately provide the best options and opportunities for the patient.

Sharon Brigner, MS, RN
Deputy Vice President in State Government Affairs, PhRMA

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Sharon Brigner, MS, RN
Deputy Vice President in State Government Affairs, PhRMA

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Ms. Brigner is a Deputy Vice President in State Government Affairs for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade association in Washington, DC.  She provides clinical expertise on legislation and key policy positions for her organization and works closely with the patient and provider community on access issues.  For the past several years, Ms. Brigner worked on the weekends at her local INOVA Emergency Room in Reston, Virginia in addition to her work with PhRMA. 

Previously, Ms. Brigner worked for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) as a senior health policy analyst and lobbyist for the seniors’ association.  Other work experiences include: the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Congressional office of Senator Chuck Robb, the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University, and the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked as a Neurology nurse to provide direct patient care to patients from all over the world.    

Ms. Brigner attended nursing school at Texas Woman’s University in Houston and served as President of the National Student Nurses’ Association and President of the Texas Nursing Students’ Association.   Ms. Brigner also holds a Master’s degree in Health Systems Management. 

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How did you celebrate the important role nurses play in health care during National Nurses Week?

With National Nurses Week concluding recently, I’m proud of the contribution my fellow nurses on the front lines do for the communities in which they serve each and every day. Our health care system is stronger because of nurses who continuously put the patient first.

From my experience, education is a gift which can be imparted on our patients. Underserved communities in particular appreciate the knowledge which nurses share and the sensitivity they take to make sure patients are informed. One challenge we often face is breaking down cultural barriers to get to the patients who need us most. Sometimes it means finding a nurse for a patient who speaks their own language – it’s that type of connectivity that helps open a dialogue and build the trust needed to best care for and treat our communities.

In my own line of work at St. Joseph Hospital in California, my focus has been in the cardiovascular and diabetes space. I find tremendous joy in helping my patients navigate these health issues and putting them at ease. As a result, I see to it that my patients are the most informed they can be and receive the best possible care. Further, patients want to know what they can do to stay healthy and this is where nurses play an even greater role than many think. Nurses in particular are eager to share preventative health care knowledge and best meet the needs of patients in an ever-changing and diverse health care system.

I was proud to celebrate National Nurses Week this year with my fellow nurses and look forward to continuing serving as a health educator and caregiver.

Sonia Valdez
National Secretary, NAHN

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Sonia Valdez
National Secretary, NAHN

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Sonia Valdez, BSN, RN, PHN, CVRN serves as a House Supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. There, she promotes and restores patients health by developing day-to-day management and long-term planning of the patient care area; directing and developing staff; collaborating with physicians and multidisciplinary professional staffs; providing physical and psychological support for patients, friends, and families. In addition to her daily duties serving patients, Sonia has been the National Secretary for the National Association of Hispanic Nurses Executive Board since 1997. She also serves as a member of the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association, American Nurses Association of Nurse Practitioners, and the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

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