The Georgia secretary of state says he is postponing his removal of the state nursing board’s executive director until August of next year.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s decision in June to remove Jim Cleghorn, and replace him with the head of the state’s cosmetology board, has proved controversial. Many nurses across the state have said they were angered and puzzled by the planned ouster of Cleghorn.
In a letter last week to Georgia nurses, Kemp said that because his office’s nursing education consultant position is vacant, “it is not the best time to make this change.’’
“Although the executive director will be reassigned in the future, I think it is best to wait until 2017 to begin the transition process,’’ Kemp said in his letter. “Under this plan, the transition period will conclude with a new executive director in August 2017. Waiting these months will ensure a new nursing education consultant can be hired and trained before a new executive director is brought in.”
The decision to change executive directors, Kemp said, was intended to ensure institutional knowledge regarding the Georgia Board of Nursing is shared by several staff members “in case a sitting executive director ever chose not to, or could not, continue in their position with my office.”
The AJC has reported that under Cleghorn, the nursing board recently has reduced a large backlog of complaints against nurses.
Board of Nursing member Brenda Rowe said a month ago that the Cleghorn move and lack of consultation by Kemp with the board left her “very, very concerned,” the AJC reported.
“It was made unilaterally,” Rowe said. “The board didn’t provide any input into it.”
State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is a nurse herself, told GHN on Monday, “I think it’s a shame to treat nurses this way.”
The nursing board has improved its operations dramatically in recent months, Unterman said.
“Why upset the apple cart when their situation has advanced other than to show executive power?’’ she said. “I don’t understand, nor do the nurses. Cross-training can be accomplished without changing the executive director.”
There are other nursing issues that need attention, Unterman said. “It disturbs me to have this administrative disconnect when our focus could be much more constructive using our energy to accomplish more,’’ she said. “It’s like a waste of energy to me. I would rather move the profession of nursing forward, not backward, helping Georgians who seek quality health care.”
There are roughly 160,000 licensed nurses in Georgia.
Since his original decision in late June, Kemp has received feedback from the Georgia Nurses Association and other groups.
“That’s definitely why he was willing to revise’’ his plan, said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state.
“Mr. Cleghorn has done a fantastic job for the last six years,’’ she added.
When Cleghorn moves to the state cosmetology board, and is replaced by Andrew Turnage, “they’ll be able to share ideas,’’ Broce said.
Marcus Downs, executive director of the Georgia Nurses Association, said Monday that his organization is seeking to reach out more to Kemp and improve nurses’ relationship with the secretary of state.
The delay in the Cleghorn move allows the Nurses Association an opportunity to repair that relationship, said Downs, who took over his GNA role in May.
Better communication and transparency are needed, Downs said. “I need for my organization to have a seat at the table.”
Linda McCauley, dean of the Emory University School of Nursing, said Monday that despite the delay in Cleghorn’s ouster, nurses are still puzzled over the move.
“We still don’t understand, given all that the board of nursing has been through, why he [Kemp] would want to disrupt the leadership,” McCauley told GHN. The board, she said, “has been functioning at an optimal level for the last year.”
Kemp’s idea of cross-training for executive directors “is a very strange model” that doesn’t appear to be occurring in other Georgia licensing boards, McCauley added.
Kemp’s letter to nurses last week said, “Georgia’s nurses serve our state every day with little recognition of the great impact they have on our communities. You care for our children, aid our parents and grandparents as they age, and show compassion to all of us when we are ill. I appreciate the calling you have to your profession, and I want to assure you that the Secretary of State’s office will work to honor your effort with providing exceptional service for your profession.
“I appreciate the dialogue I have had with nurses and nursing groups over the last few weeks, and I look forward to continued cooperation over the coming months. “