Throughout my career as a registered nurse, I have had no greater privilege than to provide healthcare to those who have bravely served our country. As a former chief psychiatric nurse at the VA Medical Center in Dallas, I know first-hand the resources that are needed to care for those coming home from war. I firmly believe it is our duty as a Nation to provide the best care possible to our veterans.
Unfortunately, healthcare in America has become a luxury that millions of Americans, including veterans, simply cannot afford or access. The United States holds its rank at 18th worldwide in deaths due to the lack of servicing patients with preventable conditions. As healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control, most Americans would agree that our healthcare needs improvement.
Over one trillion dollars is spent each year caring for those afflicted with common chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes - and much of this care would not be necessary if we aggressively pursued preventive care.
Despite all of this, there is reason for Americans to have hope. Two years ago, Congress passed the most significant reform in decades that addressed what most Americans say is their number one health care priority - health promotion and disease prevention. Americans understand that preventable care not only saves money, but can alleviate future suffering.
While our country continues to shift towards a nationwide focus on prevention and promotion, I believe that nurses should be standing at the forefront of this reformation. It is for this reason that I propose that we as a Nation designate a National Nurse for Public Health. The National Nurse would function alongside the Surgeon General and focus on health promotion, improving health literacy, and decreasing health disparities.
National Nurses Week, May 6-12th, is dedicated to acknowledging the hard work, patience, and service that our nurses provide. This year's theme is "Nurses: Caring, Leading, Advocating." Nurses deserve more than one week of recognition for their tireless work in healthcare. To highlight and showcase the extraordinary work that nurses do each and every day, last year I introduced the National Nurse Act of 2011.
This bill elevates the status of the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service to bring greater visibility and recognition of the contributions of nurses to the public health, health promotion, and disease prevention. While it is the responsibility of every health professional to emphasize wellness, it is nurses who are in the ideal position to deliver these messages. The relationship that nurses have with their patients is truly the cornerstone of every nurse's practice. Nurses are present in every community, in hospitals, clinics, schools, workplaces, and in the military, and they spend more time with patients than any other health professional.
The National Nurse Act of 2011 has bipartisan support in Congress and is worthy of becoming law. As a Nation, we should recognize and thank our committed nurses by supporting this legislation. The fundamental care nurses provide promotes social justice and wellness to millions of Americans each year. In the words of Florence Nightingale, "I think one's feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results."