Published: Sunday, July 16, 2006
Leading nurse follows legacy of her mother
She will fight to improve care and working conditions.
By SARAH WEBER
YOUNGSTOWN As the daughter of a nursing dynamo, Rebecca Patton had big shoes to fill when she became a nurse and a watchdog for nurses' welfare.
Now, the woman who wanted to be the president of the American Nurses Association while growing up on the city's West Side has fulfilled her dream.
During the ANA delegates' meeting June 23-25, Patton was elected association president.
Patton is a 1972 graduate of Chaney High School and graduated from Kent State University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She earned her master's degree in psychological and mental health nursing in 1998 from Case Western Reserve University and now lives in Cleveland.
Her mother, Mary Ellen Patton, a Youngstown resident and Forum Health retiree, was a member of the ANA Board of Directors and the Ohio Nurses Association.
She was a longtime union activist and fought for changes in the way nurses were treated in the medical community in the 1970s and 1980s.
Rebecca Patton said priorities for her two-year presidency include improving patient care and bettering the working environment for nurses.
"The nursing shortage has a lot to do with the poor working environment," Patton added.
By 2020, Patton said the nation's heath care system will need to recruit an additional 1.1 million nurses to adequately staff medical centers. Currently there are 2.9 million nurses working in the United States.
"Part of [the shortage] is people not wanting to go into nursing; part of it is people wanting to go into nursing not having the programs," Patton said. "There's no easy answer."
Patton is taking a leave of absence from her job as the director of surgery at EMH Regional Healthcare System in Cleveland so she can perform her duties as president. While much of her time for the next two years will be spent in Washington, D.C., Patton said she will do plenty of traveling in and outside of the country.
"We're recognized in the country and with elected officials as the voice of nursing," Patton said.
ANA is an umbrella organization that promotes education, lobbies Congress on health care issues, and works to ensure the economic and general welfare of working nurses. Patton said, "It's an organization that gets things done."