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National Nurses Week 2010 Profilies in Nursing: Ann Busch, RN, MS, CWOCN, ACNS-BC-PP, FAAN



West Linn, OR – Ann Busch, a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) for the Liver Transplant Service at Portland’s VA Hospital, is used to traveling. Since receiving her Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree in 1980 from the University of Portland, and her Masters of Science in Nursing from the University of California San Francisco in 1985, Busch has visited dozens of cities and countries lecturing and training on the unique challenges facing nurses working with liver transplant patients. In January of this year, though, Busch traveled to Washington DC for a one of a kind experience.

On January 20, 2010, the Acting Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Gerald Cross, awarded Busch the first ever Award for Excellence in Transplant Care at a special ceremony held in the nation’s capital. "It was an incredible honor,” said Busch. "There were physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals from all over the country nominated for this award, and I was delighted to be selected. ”

Busch, who is a long time resident of West Linn, is more than just an award winning nurse. She is, according to Susan King, Executive Director of the Oregon Nurses Association, "one of the very best nurses in the world and an inspiration to nurses everywhere. We are incredibly proud of Ann for this award, and for her lifetime of service to patients and to the nursing profession.”

Busch is no stranger to awards ceremonies. In her 30 year nursing career, Busch has received the first National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists CNS of the Year Award in 2002, the AMSUS/Society of Federal Health Agencies 2004 Clinical Nursing Excellence Award, and, in 2009, was inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing.

"Being inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing is a remarkable achievement,” said King. "There are only 1,500 Fellows, out of more than 3 million nurses in the nation. Ann truly is a one in a million nurse.”

"It was always my plan to go into the health care field,” says Busch. "All through high school, students who did well academically were told ‘you should be a doctor, you should be a doctor.’ Well, I didn’t want to be a doctor, I wanted to be a nurse,” she says.

Busch is a Clinical Nurse Specialist, an advanced practice nurse with a Masters Degree or Doctorate, whose care focuses on a specific patient population. A CNS can specialize in certain types of diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or work in a specific medical environment, such as an operating room, or focus on a specific population, such as liver transplantation.

"When I went to nursing school, we weren’t as aware of the wide range of career paths available in nursing. Now most nursing professionals know about the enormous opportunities for them in a variety of settings,” said Busch. "The CNS role is challenging and rewarding. I can’t imagine being anything but a CNS.”

When asked what her role as a CNS entails, Busch laughs. "We do everything to improve patient outcomes. CNSs are clinical experts who work with patients and their families, the healthcare team, and the organization. When working with a transplant patient, one concern is to ensure that the transplanted liver keeps working for the next 50 years. But more than that, we want the patient’s entire body to work and have excellent quality of life for the next 50 years. That involves advising, consulting, educating, researching and focusing on preventative health and overall wellness.”

In 1988, the Portland VA Hospital became the first VA funded in-house liver transplant program in the nation. Since that time, more than 250 veterans from across the nation have received liver transplants at the facility. According to Susan Pendergrass, Director of the VA’s Northwest Network, "I am proud of the leadership, education and personal touch that Ann routinely demonstrates as a Liver Transplant Clinical Nurse Specialist. Her contributions to the VA have facilitated first class medical care to our nation’s Veterans.”

According to Busch, Oregon is an ideal place to practice as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. "Oregon is at the forefront of nursing, particularly Advanced Practice Nursing specialties like Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners. Now, a number of states have followed Oregon’s lead and have created legislation to help make Advanced Practice Nurses a key part of their health care system.”

With the passage of national Health Care Reform, these specialist nurses are going to become even more important for quality patient care, according to Busch. "We all know that there are not enough providers to be able to provide quality care to every patient in the nation. CNSs are already crucial to delivery of care in specialist settings, and that role will grow in the coming years. More and more patients will become familiar with just what a CNS does.”

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