Careers in Nursing

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago, I touched the lives of 5000 people. Speaking to an audience of five hundred, made up of nurses, physicians, lawyers, teachers, students, ministers, FBI agents, and consumers, I challenged each of them to spread the word about the importance of health care and the need to improve our societal infrastructure upon which the healthcare delivery system is built. Each of those people will interact with at least 10 others. They will talk about health as part of our everyday life and the important contributions of nurses.

The occasion was the 14th Annual Salute to a Black Nurse presented by the Greater Washington, DC Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. It was the culmination of a very busy week in which many nurses demonstrated their knowledge, competence, and compassion.

Two days later, nurse researchers with doctorates met with community nurse leaders to develop concept papers addressing critical problems in the African-American community such as violence, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, and immunizations. These papers would later be developed into full research proposals and submitted to foundations or government agencies for funding. The nurse researchers brought knowledge gained from 10 years of undergraduate and graduate education, and experience in developing, implementing and disseminating scientific and scholarly work to the group. The community nurse leaders brought four to six years of undergraduate and graduate education and their experience in developing programs to address social problems within their community.

Meanwhile, nurses attending the American Hospital Association's meeting were all on Capitol Hill presenting testimony to senators and congressmen about proposed health care reform. One of the delegations was headed by Ophelia Long, R.N., B.S.N., Chief Executive Officer for Alameda County Medical Center, a health care system comprising clinics, an acute care facility, a long-term care facility, and a psychiatric facility. Long began her career as a staff nurse in critical care. She later became the Director of Critical Care Nursing, Director of Nursing, and eventually Chief Operating Officer.

The following night, the National Black Nurses Foundation honored four people for their contributions to society. Included in the honorees was Dr. Betty Smith Williams, one of the founding members of the National Black Nurses Association and former dean of the University of Colorado, School of Nursing. Dr. Williams sits on the Board of Directors of Blue Cross, Southern California. Barbara Sable, R.N., M.S.N. former Commissioner of Social Services City of New York, was also honored.

Dr. Hilda Richards, Chancellor of Indiana University-Northwestern Campus, presented Sable with the award. Dr. Richards began her nursing career as a psychiatric nurse; later she became a teacher, dean, and vice chancellor. In 1993, she became the first African-American woman and nurse to hold the position of Chancellor of a predominantly white university.

The next day began with a press conference at the Capitol in honor of National Black Nurses' Day. In the audience were several nurse lobbyists employed by manufacturers, insurance companies, and professional groups. Nurse attorneys who represented members of congress, professional societies, and special interest groups presented their views on health care reform. …