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Nursing pioneer shares insights, inspiration during YNHHS webinar

On Nov. 8, Yale New Haven Health and Yale School of Nursing held a special webinar featuring Loretta Ford, RN, EdD, who transformed nursing by helping to create the nurse practitioner role in the 1960s. 

Nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) from throughout Connecticut tuned in to the webinar, which helped kick off National Nurse Practitioner Week, Nov. 13 -19. Ford, who is 101, joined from her home in Florida.


Loretta Ford, RN, EdD, who helped found the nurse practitioner role in the 1960s, recently participated in a webinar in advance of National Nurse Practitioner Week Nov. 13 - 19.

In 1965, she worked with pediatrician Henry K. Silver, MD, at the University of Colorado to cofound the pediatric nurse practitioner role to meet growing primary healthcare needs for children.

During the webinar, Ford stressed that the NP role was not created to alleviate a physician shortage, but to meet the needs of people in the community who lacked access to care due to racial, socioeconomic, geographical and other barriers. 

“As nurses, we knew all along … that there were vulnerable groups in the community,” she said. “These vulnerable groups were the ones that nurses in the community were responding to.” 

Already, nurses were meeting these people’s needs through home health care, public nursing and military nursing – areas Ford had experience in. 

“I was well aware of what nurses could do,” she said.

NPs continue to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and many others by providing expert care and focusing on prevention, health promotion and teaching, Ford said. There are more than 355,000 NPs in the U.S., and the role is the fastest growing in health care.

Over the years, Ford has received numerous honors for her work, including the U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallion; Living Legend Award from the American Academy of Nursing; and the Gustav O. Lienhard Award from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. 

In helping to pioneer the NP role and throughout her career, Ford has continually worked to advance nursing education, promote specialized training and advocate for nurses’ autonomy.