May 29, 2017

ANA President Pam Cipriano on Healthy Nurses and a Healthy Nation

ANA President Pam Cipriano on Healthy Nurses and a Healthy Nation

During Nurses Week, I was lucky enough to sit down for a conversation with Pam Cipriano, the President of The American Nurses Association (ANA).

President Cipriano was in Santa Fe to support the New Mexico Nurses Association's participation in the launch of the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge initiative. 

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation

The ANA recognizes that nurses are generally less healthy than the overall American population, and Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation was created as a response to this problem. 

The ANA website puts it this way:

ANA defines a healthy nurse as one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a     balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional wellbeing. A healthy nurse lives life to the fullest capacity, across the wellness/illness continuum, as they become stronger role models, advocates, and educators, personally, for their families, their communities and work environments, and ultimately for their patients.

President Cipriano stated, “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation is a grand challenge which is intended to make a major social change in the country. We believe that by improving the health of nurses, we will improve the health of the nation. That’s a long-term, audacious goal.”

In bringing together partners across the country, the ANA is challenging nurses to address five major domains of their personal and professional lives:

  • Rest

  • Safety

  • Activity

  • Quality of life

  • Nutrition

Nurses across the country are urged to register for Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation. Participants are linked to each other through online forums and email updates.

President Cipriano shared, "As a long-term project that’s just getting off the ground, the ANA is putting its muscle and focus behind the challenge in order to move the needle for nurses’ health, as well as the health of the American people as a whole." 

Improving Environments

President Cipriano has been a nurse for 41 years, and clearly remembers the days when nurses and doctors used to smoke in the hospital. She recalls that respiratory therapists and nurses were especially notorious for their smoking habits. 

“I was an anti-smoking crusader and was able to create a non-smoking zone in a hospital in North Carolina, even in the middle of tobacco country," she shared.

Meanwhile, Cipriano and the ANA also recognize that the work environment goes far beyond protecting staff and patients from second-hand smoke.

“Nurses need a healthy and ethical practice environment, including good schedules and freedom from mandatory overtime," Cipriano added. "We’ve come a long way to where nurses can now speak up and question their work environment.” 

Cipriano believes that nurses need to learn to say no, to protect their personal boundaries, and to put their own health first. 

In the course of our conversation, President Cipriano also addressed workplace injuries and the impact on the nursing profession. 

“In terms of safe patient handling and mobility, we used to think that body mechanics were the answer. Nurses are the fourth highest occupational group that loses time from workplace injuries.”

A Maturing Profession

Cipriano believes that nurses are more involved in decision-making than they were 40 years ago, and that shared governance, support for healthy workplace cultures, evidence-based practice, and striving for excellence are important aspects of nursing’s success in the 21st century.

“I think we’ve had a huge maturation driven in part driven by more education, more research, and the efforts of all of our professional organizations -- the ANA, our states, and others -- that have pushed to bring nursing to the forefront.

“Nurses must take care of themselves, and we look at our Nursing Code of Ethics for the foundation of this belief. It says that nurses have a duty to care for themselves as well as others. It’s important for nurses to internalize what we’ve been telling patients for decades -- we have to practice what we preach.” 

Cipriano pointed out that nurses need breaks, time to eat healthy meals, and a place for respite. 

“We don’t want any martyrs in nursing. The 12-hour shift is a little bit of a sacred cow in nursing, but the research shows that our cognitive ability declines after 12 hours. Nursing owns the 12-hour shift dilemma -- it’s a self-management and organizational management issue. We must control our environment and manage our choices.”

A Culture of Awareness and Action

It’s not just a culture of awareness but a culture of action that President Cipriano would like to see. She feels that nurses must learn to be more assertive, and if they do so in partnership with their leaders, it will be even more effective. 

Cipriano recommends that nurses advocate for their own well-being within the work setting. She also believes that nurses must advocate at the state and federal levels in terms of lobbying for legislation that improves the health of Americans and the strength of the nursing profession. 

"Nurses need to have the moral courage to speak up and say that this is not the environment that they want," Cipriano stated. "We need to be fearless, and we need to work for organizations that value the expertise of the nurse." 

President Cipriano shared that what frightens her is that we are always at risk of becoming complacent.

"Now we see that we’re in the fight of our lives for the people of this country to be able to have access to affordable insurance and affordable care, and I don’t want any nurse to be on the sidelines. And even if we don’t agree on a strategy, let’s talk about it and let’s come together, because we have the mutual goal of wanting to do what’s right for the American people.”

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Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

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