1. Mason, Diana J. PhD, RN, FAAN, AJN Editor-in-Chief


The Department of Health and Human Services and the American Red Cross fail tests of leadership.


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A strong leader needs to have a strong vision, clearly stated goals, and a clear-eyed view of the resources needed to make them happen. Unfortunately, two national organizations are showing a stunning myopia when it comes to the ways in which nurses contribute to their aims, and as a result they're failing as national leaders of public health.


AJN Reports on page 22 notes that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services failed to appoint even one nurse to a 13-member advisory committee that will develop the objectives for Healthy People 2020, a guide for national public health priorities. Penelope Royall, deputy assistant secretary for health in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, told AJN that nurses are included in the working groups that will help the advisory committee and were invited to attend regional meetings to discuss priorities. How patronizing. And how embarrassing: their omission comes at a time when the World Health Organization is calling for nursing to be represented at the highest levels of government planning as nations strive to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


All nurses focus on health promotion, and public health nurses are the mainstay of many public health departments. Nurses have served as state commissioners of health and public health, the so-called AIDS czar, presidents of the American Public Health Association and the American Heart Association, and cochairperson of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Nurses have repeatedly demonstrated a capacity to lead and collaborate. How can this nation develop its public health priorities without nurses? Do those who appoint the advisory committee think that nursing's voice will be represented by the physicians, educators, and others on the committee? Without input from nursing, a perspective that is crucial to health care is missing.


A second development is even more distressing. The American Red Cross ( is eliminating its chief nurse officer position. By the organization's own account, nurses contribute significantly to its mission by

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* "providing direct services" such as disaster action teams.


* offering courses such as first aid.


* managing regional chapters and blood services.


* acting as members of local and national boards.



Volunteer nurses staff emergency shelters that can serve as quasi hospitals after a disaster. Nurses also know the available resources and infrastructures of their own communities and are poised to respond during a disaster.


How does the Red Cross think it will maintain and build its volunteer staff, particularly when nurses' and others' time for volunteer activities is severely strained by work, family, or financial concerns? It requires someone who knows the nursing community and can develop creative approaches to recruiting more volunteers, educating new recruits on disaster relief, and representing nursing at the highest levels of the organization- especially since there is no one identified as a nurse on the current national board of governors.


Anyone who cares about this issue-principally those who volunteer for or make donations to the American Red Cross-should write to new chief executive Gail McGovern and tell her why a nurse leader within the organization is essential. I'm hoping that McGovern is the type of visionary leader who understands that the people on the frontlines of health care can't be taken for granted.


If you click on "nursing" on the home page of the American Red Cross you go to a page that says, "American Red Cross Nursing [horizontal ellipsis] a presence throughout [horizontal ellipsis] uplifting lives with compassion and special skills [horizontal ellipsis] competent and prepared [horizontal ellipsis] strengthening the organization with innovation and support[horizontal ellipsis]." The American Red Cross needs to back up its rhetoric with action by restoring the chief nurse position, and the Department of Health and Human Services needs to rectify its failure to ensure that the Healthy People 2020 advisory committee includes at least one of the many qualified nurses in this country.