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Top 20 Most Influential People In The Nursing Field

This is the 2010 Year of the Nurse, and our list of the top 20 most influential people in the nursing field include two historic figures, a graduate student and others — all influential in their advocacy for patients and for fellow nurses around the world. This is just a handful of the many influential nurse in political, work and teaching roles, listed alphabetically by surname.


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  1. Vernice Davis AnthonyVernice Davis Anthony [PDF], RN and CEO and president of the Greater Detroit Area Health Council, is an “unsung hero” for her advocacy and leadership in addressing patient issues for vulnerable populations. Detroit health care leaders credit Anthony with elevating the profile of the 66-year-old Greater Detroit Area Health Council into a strong regional coalition-builder.
  2. Dr. BennerPatricia Benner, RN, PhD, FAAN is the author of nine books and is an internationally noted researcher and lecturer. Her work has had wide influence on international nursing legislation. She was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. Currently, she is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California’s School of Nursing.
  3. Claire BertschingerDame Claire Bertschinger, DBE, known as the nurse who inspired Live Aid, worked for the International Red Cross during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. She is an author, the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal, Woman of the Year Award, and the Human Rights in Nursing Award. She is the course director for the Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and remains committed to developing world health issues.
  4. Pam BleschPam Blesch, BSN, MSN is an assistant professor of nursing in the Carolyn McKelvey Moore School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. She has 35 years of service via medical-based mission trips and other outreach projects and recently selected as an inductee into the book, Giving Through Teaching — How Nurse Educators Are Changing the World.
  5. Deborah BurgerDeborah Burger, RN, is co-President of America’s RN Union and President of the California Nurses Association (CNA). Burger has led the CNA through a wide-ranging confrontation with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his views on health. Burger writes a column in the Huffington Post and has been nursing for over thirty years.
  6. Rose Ann DeMoroRose Ann DeMoro, CNA/NNOC Executive Director, was named one of America’s “Ten Most Influential” women of 2006 by MSN and has won the “100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare” for eight years running. She abandoned her doctorate ambitions for social activism — mainly to influence a California law that would increase nurse-patient staffing ratios. DeMoro and the nurses won their battle.
  7. Dr. FawcettJacqueline Fawcett, PhD, RN, FAAN is an internationally recognized authority on conceptual models of nursing and nursing theory. Her ongoing programs focus on functional status in normal life transitions and serious illness and women’s responses to cesarean birth. She currently holds teaching and research positions at UMass Boston’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
  8. Echo HeronEcho Heron, RN, is a bestselling author of medical fiction and nonfiction and — in the process — has made the nursing role more visible and viable. Heron’s first book, Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse, quickly rose to the top of the New York Times best seller list, an incredible affirmation for a first-time author.
  9. 1LT Sharon Ann Lane1LT Sharon Ann Lane (1943-1969) was one of eight American military nurses who died while serving in Vietnam, and the only one killed as a direct result of hostile fire. While she won numerous awards for her bravery on Vietnamese front lines, 1LT Sharon Ann Lane remains an important and influential symbol representing the sacrifices and service of the thousands of women who serve in war.
  10. Dr. MelkusGail D’Eramo Melkus, EdD, C-NP, FAAN is a nationally recognized expert in diabetes nursing care and research. In collaboration with the Diabetes Research & Training Center of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Dr. Melkus developed and implemented the first specialty concentration in diabetes care for advanced practice nurses in the country.
  11. Teri MillsTeri Mills MS, CNE, RN is president of the National Nursing Network Organization, founded to campaign for the national nurse initiative. Her 2005 op-ed in The New York Times spurred California Congresswoman, Lois Capps, to introduce a bill in March of 2006 to establish and fund an Office of the National Nurse. Teri also works as faculty in the nursing program at Portland Community College.
  12. Dr. OhlsonVirginia M. Ohlson, PhD, RN (1914-2010) helped resurrect the nursing profession in Japan after World War II, where she was part of a team that studied the effects of the atomic bomb. Dr. Ohlson became a teacher and administrator at Chicago’s College of Nursing, University of Illinois, where an endowed scholarship for international students and an annual lecture bear her name.
  13. Rebecca PattonRebecca Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR, is serving her second term as president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), an organization that endorses candidates for President of the United States. A winner of many awards, Patton’s leadership promotes unity in nursing, patient advocacy, creative thinking and innovative solutions to advance the nursing profession.
  14. Brian PiatkowskiBrian Piatkowski, RN is the first author of a manuscript being edited for submission to The Journal of Burn Care and Research, entitled, “Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.” He also is a Dean’s List graduate student at the University of San Diego Nurse Practitioner and Doctoral program and is an expert on high tech treatment options at the UCSD Medical Center.
  15. Dr. SasloChristopher Saslo, DNS, ARNP, BC is an adult nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he treats patients with chronic illnesses. Currently the president of the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network and co-chair of the Florida Coalition for Advanced Practice Nursing, Dr. Saslo is an advocate for state health care improvements and the advancement of ARNPs.
  16. Donna SmithDonna Smith, RN, FNP is best known for her major role in Michael Moore’s 2007 movie, SICKO. Though they were fully insured, the Smiths lost everything they had following major illnesses and surgeries. Today, Donna Smith works as a community organizer and legislative advocate for the CNA, whose 85,000 members across the country were early champions of a single-payer program.
  17. Dr. SoleMary Lou Sole, PhD, RN, CCNS, CNL, FAAN, FCCM is an acclaimed expert in critical care nursing, airway management and mechanical ventilation and infection prevention in acute care. Recently, Sole received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ 2009 Flame of Excellence Award at the National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Expo in New Orleans.
  18. Barbara StilwellBarbara Stilwell, FRCN developed the first Nurse Practitioner program in the UK, after she was offered an award to study in the US to be a nurse practitioner. She was named one of the top 20 most influential nurses of the last 60 years by the UK’s Nursing Times in 2008, and currently works as Director of Technical Leadership for IntraHealth in North Carolina.
  19. Dr. StonePatricia W. Stone, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN is professor of nursing and director of the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University School of Nursing. Her research and clinical interests focus on nursing quality, infection prevention and control, health policy, patient safety and quality outcomes and more — all earning her the Distinguished Nurse Researcher of the Year in 2008.
  20. Julia F. WarnerJulia F. Warner, RN, MSN, NE-BC has been a team leader of Operation Walk Virginia — a nonprofit organization aimed at helping patients who have joint problems in developing countries — since its inception in 2006, and is a patient care director at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Alexandria, Virginia. She has been recognized nationally for her community service, which takes her to Nicaragua and Ecuador.
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