Rebecca began her nursing career as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate from then Northeast Missouri State University in 1975. She completed a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a focus in Community Health Nursing (CNS) in 1982. She also achieved Doctoral Candidacy in pursuit of her PhD in Nursing at the University of Kansas, delivering presentations and publications including analyses of models of health care reform and research regarding substance abuse among nurses.
After finishing her BSN, Rebecca stayed at Northeast Missouri State University and became an Assistant Clinical Instructor in Nursing. In 1978, she was promoted to Assistant Professor of Nursing and served in that role until 2006. Rebecca’s leadership was felt throughout the university as she developed web-based enhancements for all courses, including Nursing Informatics, using Blackboard Academic Suite. She developed and taught an innovative semester-long course for senior nursing students: Community Mental Health Nursing with didactic and clinical components, that forecasted the importance of community health nursing in today’s environment. Because of her stellar work, she was awarded the inaugural Leadership in Nursing Award from the Rho Omega Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society in 2004. But she states her “opportunity of a lifetime” was her selection by her Alma mater as the commencement speaker for the class of May 2022.
Rebecca reminisces about a significant event in the first year of her nursing career. The new model of the Nursing Practice Act for the State of Missouri had unprecedented support on both sides of the aisle and was overwhelmingly passed by the legislature. The governor vetoed the bill on a technicality, shocking everyone involved. Hundreds of nurses in white caps and uniforms showed up at the Capitol on the day of the veto session and that demonstration serves as an example of what can be accomplished when the profession operates as one. The veto was overturned and marked the first time in 118 years that this had been accomplished. While that story was foundational for Rebecca’s young career, it should serve as inspiration for any member of the Missouri Nurses Association.
In 2006, Rebecca took her advocacy efforts to the Missouri Legislature and was elected as only the third nurse to be elected to the Missouri General Assembly. She represented District Two of the Missouri House of Representatives for two terms, from 2007-2010. While there, she served on numerous committees, including Higher Education, Appropriations for Health, Mental Health, and Social Services, and the highly important Budget Committee. Her leadership was evident in the chambers of the House as she served as a Speaker-appointed member of the MO Healthnet Oversight Committee and the Missouri Rx Plan Advisory Commission. Rebecca helped improve the health of Missourians by working to increased Medicaid coverage, ensure school RN salaries were equitable to teachers, and by changing laws to improve hospital safety. Her proudest moment came in 2008 when prescriptive authority for controlled substances was granted to advanced practice nurses. When she reflects on what she says is her honor to influence public policy for good, she sums it up by saying, “I was a nurse as a legislator”.
Rebecca’s service to the Missouri Nurses Association over many years includes more committees and appointed positions than one page can hold. She was fittingly the first VP of Advocacy when the MONA Board of Directors was reorganized in 2010. She was elected to the President’s position in 2011 and served two terms until 2015. During her time as MONA President, she shared her message of advocacy across the State and was a proponent of the developing Multistate Division (MSD) of ANA. Missouri was the lead State in the newly formed MSD and Rebecca subsequently served as its first President of the Board. Another highlight of Rebecca’s service to MONA is the Political Action Committee. She has served as its Chair since 2015, a position she still holds today. Her involvement and influence in the advocacy efforts of the Association are as relevant today as ever. She is ever-present and supportive of those who have taken on the advocacy mantle, and she considers mentoring young people interested in public service as one of her true passions.
It is with great pleasure that I represent the Missouri Nurses Association in bestowing the Hall of Fame award to Rebecca Payne McClanahan.