A tribute to Virginia (Ginny) Ward Paulsen (1918-August 9, 1982)


Contributed by Rorry Zahourek

Ginny Paulsen was not a nurse by profession but by heart and dedication. She served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Nurses Association from 1961-1980. In that role she inspired many to become activists on numerous fronts (clinical and political). At that time in Colorado the nurse practitioner was born and clinical specialists programs were producing new and motivated practitioners. She supported a group of nurses at Denver General Hospital to organize and demand a job description and commensurate salary for Clinical Nurse Specialists. In the 1970’s Ginny supported a group of nurses to go into private practice by providing moral support, business advice and legal consultation. Later she helped the group writing a book that described the process of setting up one of the first primary nurse clinics in the country.

She was a realistic idealist. She believed in the goodness of humanity and that we as nurses and humans could forge new roles, advance the profession, health care and change the system as a whole.

She always had good advice regarding negotiating systems and was always available for consultation when we met obstacles. She was a fierce and intelligent nurse advocate who mentored many in expanding their scope of practice and securing the legislation needed to support those advances.  She developed and hired one of the first nurse lobbyist at the State capitol in the country. (See picture of Ginny with with the first nurse lobbyist, Sue Sawyer).

Ginny also started a major international educational conference (Chautauqua) to promote discussion of issues and foster activism. This conference continues today. She birthed the idea of having risk taking workshops. These fostered activism for expanding nurses’ roles, practice and changing systems. The result of one of those workshops was the formation of Nurses for Political Action Colorado. This group provided forums for candidates to present their views and discuss issues related to overall health care and nursing.

Her premature death was and is a loss. I’m sure she would be supporting this nurse activist group and would be pleased to see how many members it has that are committed to making changes for nursing and for all to have adequate health care.

Ginny on the left with Sue Sawyer (right)

3 thoughts on “A tribute to Virginia (Ginny) Ward Paulsen (1918-August 9, 1982)

  1. I am so pleased to see Ginny honored as she was a nurse activist in her heart and spirit. I am blessed to have had her as a mentor and friend and honored to have been a part of the cadre of nurses who cared for her in her final days on this earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. There are several ideas here for current day activism including more primary care nursing clinics, fighting for full scope of independent advanced practice rights in all 50 states, and activism targeted towards political candidates as way to voice present day health and nursing challenges. Once again, I am reminded how nursing’s past can inform nursing’s future.

    Like

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