September 14, 2019

Dentist Selected To Head the National Institute of Nursing Research - Nurses Are Outraged

Dentist Selected To Head the National Institute of Nursing Research - Nurses Are Outraged

The National Institute for Nursing Research, which is the largest federal nursing research institute and disburses federal grants, will soon be headed by a biologist and a dentist. 

Lawrence Tabak, who has served as the former principal deputy director and is a doctor of dental surgery (DDS), will serve as the interim director. Tara Schwartz, who has served as the associate deputy director and has a Ph.D. in biology, will fill the role of deputy interim director. They are taking over after Ann Cashion, who has a doctorate in nursing, announced her resignation. 

"I’m very pleased to announce that upon my departure, NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD. will become the Acting Director of NINR. Dr. Tabak’s contributions to NIH, first as the Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and as the NIH Principal Deputy Director since 2010, are far too numerous to list here," said Cashion

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Nurses taking action to recall the appointments

Nursing organizations across the country are reacting to these new appointments and arguing that a nurse should have been selected to lead. 

Sandy Summers, from the group The Truth about Nursing, told Business Insider about the changes: “There's the suggestion just that any random, in this case, an old white man can supervise a bunch of nurses and it doesn't take any particular skill or education. It damages public understanding of the nursing profession, it sends a message that nurses are not college-educated science professionals.”

The Truth about Nursing is working to improve the public’s understanding of the nursing profession and combat negative stereotypes. They have started a petition that calls on the NIH to overturn the recent appointments and put nurses in these leadership roles. So far, the petition has 2,100 signatures.

Doris Carroll, who serves as the leader of the Nurses Take DC movement and the vice president of the Illinois nurses union, agrees that the recent appointments are misguided and sends the message that qualified nurse researchers aren’t as valuable or educated as other academics. 

A petition has been created to ask the National Institute of Health to recall the appointments of the Dentist and Biologist. Sign the petition here. 

Nurses are highly qualified for the role

Meanwhile, nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions and from 2017 to 2018, the number of students in the doctor of nursing programs jumped from 29,093 to 32,678. At a minimum, nurses must have associates degrees and many pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates, making them a highly educated and trained community of healthcare professionals.

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That being said, about one in five nurses change careers after the first year. Summers argues that this turnover rate is due in part to the way nurses are treated. This latest move by the NIH only reinforces the idea that nurses aren’t experienced researchers and scientists in their own right and creates a culture where nurses are treated as second class academics and professionals.  

That is why nursing organizations across the country are joining forces to let the NIH know that they want one of their own leading the NIHR.

The NINR is part of the National Institute of Health, which is the US Department of Health and Human Services research branch. Ultimately, the NINR is responsible for supporting and conducting clinical and basic research in a variety of areas in order to develop clinical practices.  

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How To Apply 

Yesterday, the National Institute of Nursing Research posted the job vacancy and is seeking applicants for the new Director role here. 

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