Becoming the Powers that Be: The Nurse in Elected Office
Nurses are the largest group of healthcare providers in the United States, yet very few have served in political office. They have intimate knowledge of the healthcare system and are experts regarding how the system functions – or doesn’t. Every day nurses negotiate, collaborate, use data to make quick decisions, and communicate with everyone from their patients to the health system CEO. These are skills that nurses can carry with them right into elected office. More importantly, there is one thing that nurses possess that politicians don’t: trust. Continually voted as the most trusted profession, nurses have yet to capitalize on this at the ballot box. The time is now for nurses, and most assuredly nurse anesthetists, to engage in electoral politics and run for office!
Meet the Experts
Sharon Pearce, MSN, CRNA graduated from the Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital Nurse Anesthesia program in 1992. She resides in North Carolina and currently works as a staff anesthetist for a CRNA-owned group, Carolina Anesthesia & Associates. Sharon has been politically active at the state and federal levels for over 20 years, including advocating for the profession as a registered lobbyist in North Carolina. She is a Past-President of the North Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NCANA) and continues to mentor new CRNA leaders in the state. Nationally, she has chaired the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Government Relations Committee (2009-2010) and served on the Board of Directors as Region 2 Director, Vice President, President-Elect, and President in 2014-2015. Sharon has served on the executive committee of the Nursing Organizational Alliance (NOA), which represents over 50 nursing organizations. She also co-hosts “Beyond the Mask,” which is ranked in the top 50 medical podcasts in the country. Sharon is in the 2021 cohort of Yale University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. She is a highly sought after national and international speaker on advocacy, legislative involvement, and various clinical topics.
Sharon ran for the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2016. At that time, only three CRNAs in the country had run for the state legislature. While unsuccessful in her bid, she was victorious in stimulating North Carolina’s campaign economy. Sharon’s physician anesthesiologist colleagues opened a super PAC and donated over a quarter of a million dollars to defeat her. (She is still waiting for a thank you card from her opponent.)
Kimberly Gordon, MSN, CRNA was her campaign manager.
Kimberly Gordon, MSN, CRNA is a reformed accountant. After seven years as a cost and budget accountant, she chose to pursue a career in nursing and then nurse anesthesia. Kimberly graduated from nursing school in 2001 and from the UNC-Greensboro/Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital Nurse Anesthesia program in 2007. Currently, Kimberly practices per diem at Novant Health in Winston Salem, North Carolina while she completes her doctoral studies. She will graduate from Yale School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program in May 2021.
Professional leadership and political advocacy have been Kimberly’s passion since her undergraduate nursing program. She has been an active member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) since 2001. She was named the organization’s Joanne S. Stevens Political/Legislative Nurse of the Year in 2017. Kimberly has also served in leadership roles in the North Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NCANA) since 2008, serving as NCANA president in 2016. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of Health Care Providers for Greater Access and NCNA’s Political Action Committee. She is the Government Relations Committee chair for NCANA and the North Carolina Organization of Nurse Leaders. Kimberly has decades of experience and expertise in federal and state advocacy and health policy. She holds adjunct faculty appointments at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and Western Carolina University where she teaches courses in health policy, advocacy, and leadership.
Together, as part of their doctoral work, Kimberly and Sharon created the Yale Candidate School for Nurses and Midwives. This innovative program was a first for nursing and drew applicants from across the United States. While the Candidate School was postponed earlier this year due to COVID-19, their passion for getting nurses elected to public office has not been deterred. Join Kimberly & Sharon as they share lessons learned on their own journey and hear from nurses who have run for local, state, and federal office in their own words, meet their campaign teams, and discover the road traveled as they have (and you can too) become the powers that be.