NLN Applauds Two Members of Congress as Leading Advocates for Nursing & Nursing Education

NLN Applauds Two Members of Congress as Leading Advocates for Nursing & Nursing Education

Senator Jeff Merkley & Representative Jen Kiggans Honored as NLN Public Policy Advancement Award Winners

Washington, DC — The National League for Nursing announces that Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Congresswoman Jen Kiggans in Virginia have been honored as the 2023 winners of the League’s Public Policy Advancement Award. This annual award honors deserving congressional leaders who contribute to the nation’s progress in health care, nursing, and nursing education.

Each of them was selected for demonstrating unflagging “commitment to and strong advocacy on behalf of patients’ access to health care and of nursing practice,” said NLN Chair Patricia Sharpnack, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, Dean and Strawbridge Professor at the Breen School of Nursing and Health Professions at Ursuline College in Ohio, and NLN President and CEO Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, in letters to both lawmakers notifying them of this high NLN honor.

Senator Jeff Merkley, who has been serving in the Senate since 2009, recognizes the rewards and challenges of nursing today through a very personal connection: his wife, Mary Sorteberg, is a nurse. Throughout his decades of public service and prior nonprofit management career, he has fought for better social, educational, and economic opportunities for working families, including battling the social determinants of health proven to have an adverse effect on individual and community well-being.

Drs. Sharpnack and Malone praised Senator Merkley for being “one of the nursing profession’s most ardent and tireless advocates in the halls of Congress,” noting his leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee as “vitally important in sustaining and strengthening nursing education and student enrollment through essential federal funding for nursing workforce development programs.” They further lauded his success as co-chair of the Senate Nursing Caucus in calling attention to the nation’s nursing shortage and other pressures affecting nursing practice.

Congresswoman Jen Kiggans, a retired U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, also brings to Congress a personal perspective on nursing and nursing education. She is the first nurse practitioner elected to the House of Representatives, where she has served since January 2023.

Drs. Sharpnack and Malone highlighted Representative Kiggans’ history-making role, saying, “You have brought the uniquely valuable perspective of your nursing education and practice experience to your work on Capitol Hill.”

They also cited her military service as contributing to her effectiveness as a federal lawmaker, and prior to that, as a state lawmaker, adding, “Your inspiring dedication to serving the nation and the people of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, from your service in the U.S. Navy and your care for patients in primary and long-term care to your record of accomplishments in the Virginia State Senate, have earned the respect of your fellow members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.”

Congresswoman Kiggans has made it a mission to improve the lives of members of the nation’s armed forces, their families, and veterans, as well as America’s aging population, supporting federal policies that improve equitable access to health care and benefits, along with programs that empower nurses to care for patients consistent with their level of education and clinical preparation.

“As vice co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus,” said Drs. Sharpnack and Malone, “your leadership has been critically important in supporting essential federal funding for nursing workforce development programs and initiatives to strengthen nursing education in a challenging policy environment.”

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About the National League for Nursing

Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its nearly 45,000 individual and 1,000 institutional members, comprising nursing education programs across the spectrum of higher education and health care organizations. Learn more at

March 25, 2024


Michael Keaton, Deputy Chief Communications Officer