1. Section Editor(s): Palatnik, AnneMarie MSN, RN, APN-BC

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Nurse, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, parish nurse, Christian Science nurse, office nurse, school nurse, certified registered nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist...did you ever stop to think about all the different ways that society uses the term nurse? Recently, I went into a physician's office for a medical procedure. The receptionist sent me to a prepping area and told me that the nurse would be right with me. The "nurse" quickly appeared, and in my idle chitchat I discovered that the "nurse" wasn't a nurse at all but a medical assistant. I felt a bit frustrated, not only at the people inappropriately using the title nurse, but at myself for never thinking about who's actually using the title.

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I'm proud to call myself a nurse, and have worked very hard to earn that privilege. Think about what we've all done to call ourselves nurses: Successful completion of nursing school, passing the state nursing boards, and ongoing continuing education to maintain licensure. Should people who haven't achieved that be able to call themselves nurses? In addition, many of us have even gone beyond the minimum licensure requirements and have achieved specialty certification and advanced degrees.


The title nurse implies that the person is competent to provide care in an appropriate manner, and should be restricted to people who have satisfied the licensure requirements aimed at protecting patients. One way to do this is to enact legislation (known as nurse title protection acts) to amend state nurse practice acts. Nurse practice acts list entry requirements, practice standards, and codes of conduct to protect the public against unsafe practitioners.


Thirty-six states have nurse title protection acts: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. I'm very disappointed that my home state of New Jersey isn't on this list. Neighboring state Pennsylvania has pending legislation.


The American Nurses Association (ANA) has been working with state nurses associations to get this legislation passed. I encourage each of you to support the ANA in its efforts to protect nurse as our title.


Until the next time, be healthy, be happy, and be great advocates for your patients!


AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, RN, APN-BC

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American Nurses Association. Title "Nurse" protection. July 5, 2011.


American Nurses Association. Title "Nurse" protection: summary of language by state. December 2011.