NEW YORK NURSE: January/February 2012
by Winifred Z. Kennedy, MSN PMH-CNS, BC
As a New York nurse, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished working together in our professional association. New York nurses have laid a strong foundation for nursing that’s stood the test of time and can help us face the challenges of the future.
There’s still much to be accomplished and many questions: What do changes in healthcare and its financing mean for nurses? Where will nurses be working and what roles will nurses have? What will the future of nursing look like and will NYSNA have a continued role in leading the way?
If we are to move the profession forward, we need to start with ourselves by getting involved. If I ever start to doubt the value in working together, I only have to look back upon our legacy. If I start to lose direction, I go to the source of my professional compass, Florence Nightingale, who wrote: “The very essence of all good organization is, that everyone should do her (or his) own work in such a way as to help and not hinder everyone else’s work.”
Once nurses in New York looked upon the work of Florence Nightingale, they began to build upon education to move the profession forward.
To quote one of NYSNA’s founding documents in 1901, the object of our association includes: “the advancement of the educational standard of nursing; the furtherance of the efficient care of the sick; the maintenance of the honor and character of the nursing profession; also the furtherance of cordial relations between the New York State nurses and the nurses of other states and countries.”
This led early NYSNA members to influence the formation of a national association in the ANA and an international association in the ICN. Annie Damer, a graduate of the NYC Training School and CUNY law program and fourth president of NYSNA, was one of the founders of the ICN.
An interest in bringing care into the community led Lillian Wald, a NY Hospital School of Nursing graduate, to care for the city’s immigrants and led Mary Breckenridge, a graduate of St. Luke’s Hospital, to form the Frontier Nursing Service. A spirit of activism led Mabel Keaton Staupers, who had “no time for prejudice,” to ensure the full integration of black nurses into the armed forces and in professional nursing organizations.
An interest in her profession led Ivy Nathan Tinkler, who served on NYSNA’s Board of Directors, to become the first African-American director of nursing for the Lincoln School of Nursing and Lincoln Hospital. It led Veronica Margaret Driscoll to develop strategies for professional nursing organizations and to help develop the NYS Nurse Practice Act.
Leading the way, these New York nurses, and other activists like them, are the keystones of our association.
How can you get involved? Take advantage of NYSNA programs like the Leadership Academy. Get involved with the Regional Action Committees that are working on operationalizing the recommendations of the IOM’s Future of Nursing report. Volunteer for a NYSNA council or committee, such as the editorial board of Journal. Attend Lobby Day and use that experience as a springboard for working as a legislative district coordinator.
Starting these experiences locally can lead to your getting involved nationally or globally with professional nursing associations. Even without leaving home, you can share your thoughts by using the internet to respond to requests for public comment, contact your elected representatives, or develop professional nursing policies and standards.
Involvement in these activities and continued advocacy for the profession of nursing will ensure that nursing remains a trusted and valued influence and ensure your role in building upon our legacy in nursing. This is a pivotal time to be involved in nursing. Never give up on yourself, nurses, and nursing. Working together in our full purpose state nurses association, we can make great things happen!