A day after an NHJournal report on her demeaning comment about community college education and associate degree nurses, NH Democrat Rep. Linda Tanner is still under fire. And now she’s claiming her words were “taken out of context.”

During a House Education Committee hearing on a bill allowing schools to hire nurses with associate degrees [AD] rather than the current bachelor’s degree requirement, Rep. Linda Tanner (D-Georges Mill) made this comment about the proposal:

“I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the hospital and a nurse walks in the room I don’t want just some ‘Jeannie Smith off the sidewalk’ that’s maybe taken two years at a community college with basic education and I have something that’s very technical.”

Not surprisingly, both the community college community and New Hampshire’s AD nurses reacted negatively to the quip.

“Rep. Tanner shows her ignorance of nursing with this statement,” said Dr. Shirley Svorny, Professor of Economics Emeritus at California State University, Northridge, and an expert on occupational licensing reform.

Closer to home, Dr. Susan D. Huard, Interim Chancellor of the Community College System of NH, penned an op-ed for NHJournal addressing Tanner’s remarks.

“It’s disappointing to see a comment like this come from a state lawmaker,” Huard wrote. “Even more frustrating that it came from a former teacher.

“It’s not right to speak of these talented nurses the way they were spoken of this week,” Huard added.

(Watch Rep. Linda Tanner’s comments at 55:10 mark)

 

After her remarks were published, Tanner posted a semi-mea-culpa on her Facebook page, claiming NHJournal had taken her words “out of context,” then apologizing “for any misunderstanding of [my] statement” — a common tactic among politicians.

“I do support and value Associate Degree Nurses who are capable, respected, and perform an important job in healthcare,” Tanner added, though she didn’t explain the “context” that would make her “Jeannie Smith off the sidewalk” anything other than an insult.

That’s certainly how Amanda DiPietro of Manchester heard it. “I am 26 years old and work full time as a Medical Assistant,” she told NHJournal. “I was disappointed to hear Rep. Linda Tanner’s derogatory remarks about healthcare workers with community college degrees. With my ‘two years at a community college with basic education,’ I have mastered many skills and provide care from newborns to hospice patients.”

DiPietro tells the story of catching a CT scan order another health provider had missed and getting the patient in for the procedure. “The results came back abnormal, and an immediate call was made to the patient to have emergency life or death surgery.

“Healthcare excellence is about a person’s willingness to learn and dedication to gain valuable experience that helps patients,” DiPietro said. “I am not ‘Jeannie Smith off the sidewalk,’ and I’m good at my job. I shouldn’t be looked down upon because I chose a more affordable path to my career.”

Meanwhile, the broader push for occupational license reform continues.

“New Hampshire would improve access to school nurses by eliminating the Bachelor of Science in Nursing requirement. The BSN extends the period of pre-practice education (adding general education coursework), discouraging entry,” says Svorny. “When hiring nurses, employers value experience. School districts would be better served by hiring associate degree nurses with experience in nursing.

“I’m sure, after this statement, Tanner will learn the extent to which associate degree RNs provide ‘technical’ services in nursing — administering chemotherapy to oncology patients or inserting peripherally-inserted central catheters (PICC lines), for example.”

Huard also believes Tanner’s comments present a “teachable moment.”

“Community colleges are constantly fighting the stigma of somehow being a lesser path, a shortcut that does not produce outcomes similar to four-year colleges,” Huard writes. “Hogwash.”

 

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