UTHSC College of Nursing Faculty Member Wins Statewide Award

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Nancy Appling

The Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA) will honor a faculty member from the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with the 2019 Louise Browning Political Nurse Award this week.

Nancy Appling, MSN, CNOR, CRNFA, ACNP-BC, who is the lead faculty for the Registered Nurse First Assistant Program (RNFA) in the College of Nursing, will receive the award October 19 during the state TNA Conference at Hilton-Memphis.

Appling was instrumental in a recent change in Tennessee law that aligned the state’s requirements with national standards for nurses who first assist in the operating room. Over two years, with support from UTHSC and the TNA, Appling advocated for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), met with legislators and testified before the legislature. She was present when Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law in July.

Before the change in state law, a nurse applying to the state Board of Nursing for the license of RNFA in Tennessee had to hold an Operating Room Nurses (CNOR) certification and have completed the approved RNFA program in order to use the RNFA title. National standards to use the title recognize either the RN with CNOR certification or a board-certified APRN who has completed an approved RNFA course of study. Many advanced practice nurses who have completed RNFA programs do not have the CNOR certification. Additionally, APRNs are eligible for reimbursement as first assistants.

“I am very grateful to be honored with this award. Excellence in perioperative nursing is my passion, and to be awarded for my endeavors to help promote safe, evidence-based patient care makes this award very special,” Appling said. “How we as a state license, educate, and credential health care providers is critical to achieving optimal patient outcomes.”

Tina Gerardi, executive director of TNA, said, “Nancy has been the driving force in Tennessee to change this law to secure title protection for advanced practice registered nurses who have completed an RNFA program. Nancy worked tirelessly to have legislation introduced and passed in this past legislative session.”

The Louise Browning Political Nurse Award recognizes a member of TNA who demonstrates excellence in professional and technical involvement in government affairs, promoting nursing awareness and participation in policy development and political action, educating nurses about legislative issues and the political process, and guiding the policy development process of the association.

Appling has worked as an RNFA for more than 30 years and worked for 25 years as an acute care nurse practitioner and an RNFA at the Memphis VA Medical Center, where she pioneered the development of a multidiscipline thoracic oncology clinic for the treatment of lung cancer. She earned her MSN from the UTHSC College of Nursing as an acute care nurse practitioner in 2005, when she also won the UTHSC College of Nursing Alumni Award for Outstanding Clinical and Academic Excellence. In 2006, she was named Outstanding Advanced Practice Nurse at the Memphis VA Medical Center. In 2008, Appling was awarded Outstanding Graduate Clinic Preceptor by the UTHSC College of Nursing. She has published in peer-reviewed medical journals and has made peer-reviewed presentations.