Get Involved in Community, Urges Nurse Leader
This is the 11th in a series of profiles of Campaign leaders talking about their connections to the nursing or health care profession and their interests in healthier communities.
Renee’ Menkens, MS, RNC is clinical assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Nursing. As one of 20 nurses named as a Breakthrough Leader in Nursing by the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Renee’ has succeeded in bringing the voice of rural Oregon forward as a member of the Oregon Action Coalition to support a Culture of Health as a statewide initiative. She is a board member of the Coos County Friends of Public Health and for the Kids HOPE Center.
Renee’ is part of the Campaign Outreach Advocates for a Culture of Health program.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I wanted to make a difference, and saw that being a nurse and interacting with people at their most vulnerable to help them was a way to meet that goal.
Can you describe your philosophical evolution from making that decision to where you are today?
I have come to see nurse involvement is an important contribution to the quality of the work being done to support and improve the health of local communities.
I have always felt that there was more to being a nurse than being at the bedside, although this is a critical role for nurses. Through my graduate work and as a faculty member, I’ve been involved in the community to improve the Culture of Health. I feel strongly about the need to address issues at the local and policy level. I’ve worked with community groups focusing on disease prevention, and been involved in campaigns to eliminate smoking in local parks in Coos County and to support improving nutrition options for county residents through the work of the Community Health Improvement Committee on Healthy Eating, Active Living.
Of all that you have accomplished, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my ability to work with a diversity of people and groups as a nurse to support a Culture of Health in my community.
In both my work as a discharge call nurse and in community organizations, communication is important. Being on the Kid’s HOPE Center board is a way to see broader issues in this community relating to child health; participating in the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement committees over the last eight years has been a wonderful experience in how community groups can make a difference in the health of community residents.
If you could change the profession in any one way, what would you change and why?
I would like to see more nurses involved in community efforts to improve health and prevent disease.
I think the focus in our nursing education on acute care training is missing other ways that nurses can provide care to those who need our services.
What is the most important action that nurses can take to lead the way to improve health and health care in America?
It is critical for the nursing profession to see involvement in the community, state, and nation on policy issues that improve health as a way to make positive change in the health of our communities and nation.
What role do you see for yourself in building a healthier America?
I plan to continue in my community involvement work as a nurse and focus more on how policy change can support a healthier community and nation.