The Mississippi Nurses Association (MNA) was established on 7 June 1911 in Natchez by nurses Leola Steele and Jennie Quinn Cameron with the primary goal of ensuring the “advancement and regulation of nursing.” At that time the only training nurses received was in hospitals from physicians in an unregulated and inconsistent manner. The MNA’s bylaws and code of ethics formed the basis of the licensing Nurse Practice Act (NPA) signed by Gov. Earl Brewer in 1914, the same year that the State Board of Nursing was established. The MNA began efforts to make licensure compulsory in 1958 but did not succeed until 1970. The act has been revised several times at the initiative of the MNA to reflect changes in health care delivery.
The MNA held its first convention in October 1911 with forty attendees and has subsequently held a convention every year except 1918. Held at various locations around the state, MNA conventions convey information about changes in the profession and in the delivery of health care and create an esprit de corps. The MNA’s newsletter, Miss RN, began publication in 1939 as another way of informing and uniting the constituency.
Keeping in touch with its members is crucial to the MNA, which needs their voices to help fulfill its dual mission of representing the interests of its members and caring for patients. Even from its earliest years the MNA reached out to make political and community leaders aware of its concerns. The association held its first legislative conference in 1976, and by 1991 no gubernatorial aspirant would miss the gathering. In 1984 the MNA codified its activities by establishing a Political Action Committee to endorse candidates for public office who support its interests.
The success of MNA’s strategic political savvy is clear in the role of nurse practitioners (NPs). Mississippi was one of the first states to allow NPs to be reimbursed directly by Medicaid providers (1990), to sign third-party reimbursement claim forms without physician countersignature (1994), and to write prescriptions for controlled substances (2002). In 1998 the MNA required that all NPs have master’s degrees; four years later, the association mandated that NPs be educated in the use of controlled substances.
In keeping with its understanding of the value of outreach, the MNA joined the American Nurses Association in 1914 and has been a visible presence in the national body. It also collaborates with agencies across Mississippi that are concerned with providing health care. The MNA has lobbied on behalf of such larger public health concerns as children’s health insurance programs, antismoking efforts, insurance coverage for mammograms, school nurses, seat belt laws, and legislation allowing law enforcement officers to follow up as soon as older persons are reported missing, without a waiting period.
On the subject of race relations, the MNA often offered leadership to place health care above issues of Jim Crow. During the 1912 legislative session, a representative from Warren County proposed a bill that would “prohibit white nurses from caring for Negro patients in Mississippi hospitals.” Although the bill passed the House, MNA members joined forces with doctors to prevent it from coming to a vote in the Senate. In 1947 the MNA voted to accept black members.
- Mississippi Nurses Association website, www.msnurses.org
- Passing on the Flame: The History of the Mississippi Nurses’ Association, 1911–1986 (1986)