CommunityLetters to the Editor

It’s time to put a nurse in the White House

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By: Meghan Fitzgerald, RN, MPH, DrPH

The U.S. nursing workforce is nearly 4 mm strong, considered the front line trusted face consumers see in in a complicated system when at their worst. It’s fair to say many Americans are sick and exhausted of another insidious disease: partisan politics.

A recent poll shows 78% of Americans worry the Covid-19 vaccine approval process is being driven by politics on both sides with 72% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats expressing equal concern. And it’s not just the pandemic, many are worried about the economy, law and order, disparity in care and our policies on the global stage with trading partners.

For the 18th year in a row, 85% of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among a list of professions. Considering healthcare is personal and political, nurses own a rare and ubiquitous strength.

The most pressing problems and questions right now over index on healthcare—universal health coverage, disparities in care, drug pricing, reopening the economy, ensuring a strong public health apparatus, and the forgotten epidemics like obesity and addiction—which all need a fair and honest broker representing all of us in the debate.

Most nurses subscribe to the philosophy of servant leadership, are more likely to take a job for less pay in a underserved rural area and see all humans as equal of their time and attention. Their beliefs are anchored in science but executed with realistic practicality as they spend most days triaging priorities and solving complicated problems. Nurses carry water for the patient not the establishment whether you like it or not.

And nurses possess something so rare today in our national discourse, empathy, a core tenet of leadership which has somehow been lost in the swamp.

Whether a nurse desires to run for the highest job in the land is to be seen, but we could use their temperament, tenacity and talents wherever important discussions and decisions are being decided.

More nurses, public health leaders and those wearing white hats going into positions of political power at all levels is just what country needs now and tomorrow.

Meghan Fitzgerald is an investor, an academic, and the author of Ascending Davos: A Career Journey from the Emergency Room to the Boardroom. She serves as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

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