Recognizing significant contributions to nursing practice and health policy through political and legislative activity.
Established in 1991 to honor a nurse who has made significant contributions to nursing practice and health policy through political and legislative activity.
Barbara Thoman Curtis has been a catalyst for political activity and awareness within the nursing profession for the past 25 years. She has made significant contributions as a nursing leader serving on the ANA Board of Directors, ANA-PAC Board of Trustees, ANA Committee on Committees, and ANA Finance Committee. Barbara “developed” the role model for the political nurse. She helped to pioneer ANA’s involvement in politics and legislation and served as a mentor to countless numbers of nurses across the country. Twenty-five years of educating nurses on the political and legislative processes and nursing’s role in the formation of health care policy has earned Barbara the reputation of being a political activist for nursing. She continues to be called on by SNAs and other nursing organizations to provide her expertise and political insight. Throughout her nursing career, Barbara has been active in various political campaigns serving in a variety of roles (i.e. consultant, campaign manager, fund raiser, scheduler, and volunteer). Her work as a campaign coordinator for the 1986 congressional campaign of Illinois Nurses Association member, Mary Lou Kearns, RN, earned her a national reputation as a political force for nursing.
Barbara Zittel, PhD, RN
Dr. Zittel possesses an exemplary commitment to the nursing profession and an extraordinary
ability to promote collaborative action. Consequently, she has laid the cornerstone of a
visionary initiative that, when enacted, will change the profession and fundamentally enhance
public health and welfare in New York.
Dr. Zittel began her career as an Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit nurse at
Samaritan Hospital in Troy, New York, followed by positions as a faculty and coordinator of
staff development. Her career in nursing advocacy began in the early 1980s, when she became
the associate director of Nursing Education for the New York State Nurses Association, fostering
a professional image of nursing among public policy officials to lay the foundation for future
work to champion nursing.
She moved to the New York State Education Department in the 1990s, establishing herself as
the executive secretary to the New York State Board of Nursing by 2000. During her 20 years
with the New York State Education Department, she set a record for facilitating nurse organizations,
helping them develop and advocate for joint positions on practice issues; designed and completed a statewide nursing survey culminating in two research reports on the nursing shortage; and led the state board to recommend a model that would advance the education of registered nurses in New York State.
Dr. Zittel’s most notable accomplishment was the implementation of that model through the development and effort behind passage of the “BS in 10,” a bill that would require New York nurses to achieve their baccalaureate degree within ten years after graduating from their initial nursing programs. The achievement was only possible once she formed a collaborative of faculty from LPN, AD, and BS programs, and nurses from specialty organizations and public organizations — groups that worked together and advocated as one strong group — for the bill.
Efforts continue to advance this far-reaching legislative proposal. Today, Dr. Zittel informs and mobilizes nursing colleagues and organizations around pending New York legislation through the Coalition to Advance Nursing Education. She serves on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Campaign for Action as a member of the steering committee of the New York State Action Coalition, and co-leads its subcommittee to advance the “80/20” recommendation of the Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing Report. She has truly made her mark as a committed, visionary advocate for the future of nursing and the clients for whom we care.