Cary News

Morrisville’s Letha Joseph brings nursing skills to the NC General Assembly

Even legislators get stomach aches. And nurses like to see politics in action. Morrisville’s Letha Joseph, RN, will serve as Nurse of the Day at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday. The program is organized through the North Carolina Nurses Association.

As Nurse of the Day, Joseph will take vital signs, check blood pressures and dispense over-the-counter drugs for headaches, upset stomachs and allergies.

Joseph, who completed her nursing degree in India and has served as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, moved to the United States in 2001. She has worked at Duke Medical Center and is now at the Durham VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Last month she was awarded a scholarship through NCNA for nursing leadership and will receive her master’s degree in May 2013.

Q: How did you hear about the Nurse of the Day program, and why did you apply?

I am a member of NCNA, so I heard about it through the organization. Nurse of the Day gives me an opportunity to give back to the community.

I will be able to sit and watch (the legislators), and I will carry a pager. I have been a U.S. citizen for more than seven years, so I am excited to learn more about how the political system works.

Q: As a member of NCNA, you advocate for nurses. What is the biggest issue facing nurses today?

The nursing workforce is aging. We need more young nurses. Part of the problem is not a lack of interest in nursing, because many young people are interested, but lack of faculty to teach them and funding for seats in nursing programs. UNC had to cut about 25 percent of the seats for the BSN program last year.

Q: How are you involved in nursing advocacy?

I gave a podium presentation at the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association in Las Vegas in March. My talk was called “The Tsunami of Chronic Diseases” and emphasized the need for ethnic specific guidelines for people from these areas living in the United States. The numbers we look at for diabetes or obesity are different with this population than the overall U.S. specifications. I talked about the importance of lifestyle modification: to embrace activity, improve nutrition, and cut out smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. There are ethnic-specific risk factors that we need to be aware of.

Q: What do you hope to do when you graduate with your MSN next spring?

I love working with patients who have chronic diseases. People need a lot of guidance and support in managing their diseases. I am not sure whether my work will involve a primary care practice or hospital-based clinic.