A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky’s nurses are influencing policy and public health in the “Year of the Nurse”

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The World Health Organization has declared 2020 the “Year of the Nurse” in celebration of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing.

In Kentucky, nurses are expanding their roles in communities. Executive Director of the Kentucky Nurses Association Delanor Manson said the state would benefit from placing nurses in board rooms, prisons, legislative offices and research labs.

Nurses often are on the front lines of health care, especially in rural communities. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“When you have a nurse working in an environment where there’s any of those types of discussions about wellness and health, then the nurse brings an additional perspective,” Manson said. “We have the mayor of Lexington. She is a nurse. She brings that perspective to her duties and responsibilities as a mayor.”

Nurses are on the front lines of keeping rural communities healthy. And according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the demand for nurses in rural regions is rising. The organization says while 88% of nurse practitioners specialize in primary care, only around 18% practice in rural settings.

Manson said while those working in the field are bracing for a nurse shortage, it remains unclear from state data what occupations registered nurses in the Commonwealth have chosen. She said that’s problematic if state officials want to accurately predict future need.

“For instance, I haven’t touched a patient in 40 years, but I am counted in as a nurse; which means that I’m a person who is eligible to take care of patients, and that I could work maybe in a hospital or in an ambulatory-care setting,” she said. “When that is not my skill set at this point, then I should not be counted in that number.”

She said across the state, nurses in schools are vanishing.

“When I was a child, every school had a school nurse. That is not the case today,” she said. “That is something that we’re working on within the KNA, is to ensure that every student has a nurse at their school every day.”

According to the state Board of Nursing, there are currently around 70,000 active registered nurses in Kentucky.

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