House bill could create new 'national nurse' public health position

Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Pete King (R-N.Y.) and more than two dozen Democrats have introduced legislation that would create a national nurse to work alongside the surgeon general.

The National Nurse Act, H.R. 485, would designate the chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) as the "National Nurse for Public Health."

The bill would have the national nurse work alongside the surgeon general and "focus on health promotion, improving healthcare literacy, and reducing health disparities."

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"As the first registered nurse in Congress, I know from experience how nurses play a critical role in health promotion and disease prevention," Johnson said in an announcement on her website.

"Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease threaten the health of so many Americans," she said. "The National Nurse for Public Health would raise awareness about what each of us can do to prevent illness while improving our own health and that of our families."

Today, Rear Adm. Kerry Paige Nesseler serves as the chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service. According to that agency, Nesseler "coordinates nursing professional affairs" for the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services, and "provides guidance and advice" to the surgeon general, the Nurse Professional Advisory Committee and nurses across the country on health issues.