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New ANA President Shares Her Vision

Monday July 12, 2010
Karen Daley, RN
Karen Daley, RN
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In July 1998, the course of Karen Daley’s life, and the practice of nursing nationally, was changed forever. While disposing of a needle after drawing blood from a patient in the ED, the Massachusetts native was stuck by a needle protruding from the sharps box. A few months later, she began experiencing unexplained fatigue, weight loss and abdominal pain.

Around Christmas of that year, the source of Daley’s symptoms was discovered. She had contracted hepatitis C and HIV from the needlestick.

In 1999, the effects of the needlestick injury forced Daley, RN, PhD, MPH, FAAN, to walk away from direct-care nursing. “Because it was such a difficult course, particularly in the first few years, I didn’t know initially if I’d survive it,” Daley says of the diagnosis. “I wasn’t sure what my quality of life would be.”

Daley’s decision to leave the ED was not an easy one. “I was committed to being in direct care,” she says. “I loved direct care and I loved emergency nursing. It totally took me off what I thought was a pretty clear career path in terms of my practice.”

With the future of her health and career uncertain, Daley began to focus on advocating for needlestick safety and prevention. “The purpose I found in this work kind of kept me going,” she recalls. “And I really was committed to trying to prevent these injuries from happening to other nurses and other healthcare providers.”

Along with shifting nursing practice by helping to get the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act passed, Daley’s passion for advocacy laid the groundwork for her to become the new president of the American Nurses Association.

In June, Daley was elected ANA president, taking the reins from outgoing president Rebecca Patton, RN.

“I became engaged in the policy arena around this issue [needlestick prevention],” Daley says. “ANA played a pivotal role in that.”

Using the resources and support of her state association, she was able to get a needlestick safety and prevention bill passed in Massachusetts. After that success, she and her fellow members galvanized ANA and state nursing organizations to advocate for needlestick prevention legislation on a national level. Through their efforts, the Federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was passed Nov. 6, 2000.

Daley says her experience working with the ANA on needlestick advocacy opened her eyes to the power the organization has to make a difference. As ANA president, she says she hopes to harness that power to benefit the nursing profession.

“I think this time is a very special time for nursing, and the healthcare reform legislation creates some of the opportunities,” Daley says. “If we don’t take advantage of those opportunities, nursing is going to lose out.”

Among those opportunities, Daley says, is the chance to be involved in designing healthcare delivery models, focus on preventive care and move away from the disease-driven model of care.

“Nurses know about health and they know about health maintenance,” she says, “but we often don’t have the time within the current system, as it’s structured, to do the teaching and follow-up and to spend the time with the patients that we need to optimize their care.”

Daley sees healthcare reform as a chance to achieve milestones, such as improving patient access to primary care and advanced practice nurses, but she reminds RNs that they must be engaged in the change process to see results.

“It’s a critical time to build on the relationships Becky has fostered,” Daley says, “and I think more than any other time in the recent past, we [ANA] have a chance to bring nursing together around these issues.”

In addition to healthcare reform, Daley says the ANA will continue to address professional issues that affect nurses, such as scope and standards, ethics and policy.

She also hopes to grow membership in the ANA by educating nurses around the country on how the organization can affect nursing practice and policy.

“I feel so proud to be a part of the association,” she says. “I’ve seen up-close-and-personal how good the work is and how expert our staff is on things like policy.”

Daley stresses that ANA membership and professional participation is important in making changes to the profession.

“I’m hoping nurses will want to be a part of this organization in greater numbers,” she says, “because the reality of it is we need resources to do the work. We need members to bring what they know in terms of their experience in practice.”

Jennifer Thew, RN, BSN, MSJ, is national nurse editor.

To comment, e-mail editorNTL@gannetthg.com.