A national nursing organization has sent a letter to New Hampshire legislative leaders condemning comments from Rep. Linda Tanner (D-Georges Mill) insulting the skills of some Granite State nurses.

During a debate over allowing registered nurses with two-year degrees to work as school nurses, Tanner said she was “distressed” by the idea, adding: “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.”

In a February 9 letter to the leadership of the NH House Education Committee, the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN) wrote that they were “compelled to address” Tanner’s remarks.

“Rep. Tanner’s comments are not only extremely disappointing and inaccurate, but also risk spreading false and dangerous misinformation about a large segment of New Hampshire’s health care workforce,” the OADN wrote. “OADN is the national voice and a pivotal resource for community college nursing education and the associate degree pathway, to which Rep. Tanner referred. Institutions OADN represents educate over 50 percent of all newly licensed professional registered nurses (RN) which equates to an average of 81,000 RNs annually.”

Nurses and community college administrators both in New Hampshire and across the nation have condemned Tanner’s remarks. The Georges Mill Democrat has declined repeated requests for comment from NHJournal, but she posted a semi-apology on her Facebook page claiming NHJournal took her words “out of context,” then apologizing “for any misunderstanding of [my] statement” — a common tactic among politicians.

Tanner has since taken down her post.

“It’s disappointing to see a comment like this come from a state lawmaker,” said Dr. Susan D. Huard, Interim Chancellor of the Community College System of NH. “Even more frustrating that it came from a former teacher.

The OADN letter was addressed to committee chairs Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) and Sen. Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard); and vice chairs Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) and Sen. Erin Hennessey (R-Littleton).

“Nursing graduates from community college nursing programs are highly competent registered nurses (RN).  The nursing curriculum is rigorous, complex, and all New Hampshire programs are approved by the New Hampshire Board of Nursing. Community college and university nursing graduates must pass the same licensure exam (NCLEX) to ensure competent and safe practice for the American public,” the OADN wrote. “Additionally, all nine associate degree nursing (ADN) nursing programs in New Hampshire hold specialized national accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

“OADN remains committed to the dissemination of accurate information regarding community college nursing programs. This accuracy is important, so the public has the correct information and has trust in the nursing professional providing care,” they concluded.

Read the full text of the letter here.