Winifred Quinn | University of Portland

Winifred Quinn

In 1995, as Winifred Quinn worked on her master’s degree, she took care of her mother, Anne, who was losing a lifelong battle with chronic illness. Near the end, Anne begged her daughter not to place her in a nursing home. The family struggled to fulfill Anne’s wishes, hamstrung by state policies that devalued family home health care. “That started my career in advocacy and health care policy,” says Quinn, who would go on to receive her PhD in Health Communication from Rutgers University. “If older adults and people with disabilities prefer to receive care and services in their homes, I believe they should be able to do so.” More than a quarter century later, as Director of Advocacy and Consumer Affairs for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, Quinn has helped 82 million people “and counting” find better access to health care. Since joining forces with the AARP national office in 2008, her painstaking work shaping public policy has paid gradual dividends. The number of U.S. states granting registered nurses more authority for in-home practice has more than doubled. Eleven states have improved patients’ access to care by recognizing nurse practitioners’ full practice authority, while others have made substantial advancements. “We’ve built some pretty strong coalitions in many states,” says Quinn. “We’ve been able to secure meaningful wins.” As co-leader of The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative through AARP, AARP Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Quinn draws daily inspiration watching nurses honor people’s dignity with excellent clinical care. They’re often the hidden heroes in hospitals, she says, and her appreciation extends to college graduates just entering the demanding field. “What I do is easy,” says Quinn, pausing to collect her emotions. “Nurses put their lives on the line. If you didn’t know it before COVID, this pandemic educated the world on what nurses do. They’re right there on the front lines, providing excellent care.” Four years after Quinn’s mother passed away, her father, Jim, was very ill. In the ICU, Jim resisted as a nurse struggled to place an IV into his arm. The nurse, who had once treated her mother, told Quinn: “I could restrain your father’s arm and get the needle in. But your father never wanted your mother to be restrained, so I don’t want to restrain your father.” Memories and moments like this–small measures of patient dignity–motivate Quinn as a dedicated advocate. “Mostly what I want to tell nurses, time and time again, is ‘thank you.’”