FORT LEE, Va. (May 1, 2014) -- Patients often recognize that a nurse is the health care professional with whom they and their families have the most direct contact. But they might not realize that nurses also are leaders in improving the quality of care and expanding access to care. Due to their efforts, nurses aross the United States will be celebrated May 6-12 to raise awareness of their role in meeting the health care needs of the community.

National Nurses Week is celebrated annually in conjunction with the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

"Florence Nightingale applied the lessons she learned supporting the British Army in the Crimean War to both military and civilian nursing," said Col. Richard Prior, deputy commander for nursing. "This profession has continued to modernize and evolve, employing the latest in scientific evidence, best practices and technology to care for those who are ill and prevent disease before it happens."

This year's theme, "Nurses: Leading the Way," recognizes nurses as leaders at the bedside, in the boardroom, throughout communities and in the halls of government. The nursing profession is held in high regard by the community and is viewed as a trusted advocate for patients. For the past 12 years, the public has ranked nursing as the top profession for honesty and ethics in an annual Gallup survey.

The Kenner Army Health Clinic nurses are leading initiatives to increase access to care, and improve outcomes by focusing on primary care Patient Centered Medical Home, prevention, wellness, chronic disease management and the coordination of care among health care providers and settings. All of these are areas in which Kenner nurses excel given their education and experience.

As the PCMH model is fully implemented at Kenner, nurses will be more crucial than ever. They will lead efforts to expand primary care at the clinic and deliver more efficient and cost-effective care as members of collaborative health care teams.

Interesting facts about Kenner nurses:

• Nursing is the nation's largest health care profession, with nearly three million employed professionals. Kenner has a mix of 70 registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners to ensure efficiency and access to care.

• Nursing is projected to grow faster than all other occupations. The federal government projects more than 1million additional RNs will be needed by 2022 to fill new jobs and replace RNs who leave the profession.

• Demand for nursing care will grow rapidly as Baby Boomers swell Medicare enrollment by 50 percent before 2025 and millions of individuals obtain new or better access to care under the health care reform law.

• Nurses are rapidly creating and expanding new job roles -- such as nurse navigators, care coordinator specialists and nurse wellness coaches -- to help patients secure resources, obtain seamless comprehensive care and develop healthy lifestyle practices.

"Wherever health care is provided, a nurse is likely to be there -- hospitals, ambulatory care centers, private practices, retail and urgent care clinics, nurse-managed health centers, homes, schools, nursing homes, and public and nonprofit agencies," said Prior.

If you encounter a nurse during nurse's week, during your visit to the doctor, I offer words of encouragement and gratitude for their dedication and commitment to providing health care to our Soldiers, families and the community.

For additonal information call (804) 734-9000.