Kemp and nurses meet, but come to different conclusions

Secretary of State Brian Kemp angered nurses across Georgia  with his plan to remove state nursing board executive director Jim Cleghorn and replace him with the head of the state cosmetology board.

The members of the Georgia Board of Nursing unanimously rejected the idea, but Kemp said he planned to make the staffing switch regardless. That prompted representatives from the Georgia Association of Nursing Deans and Directors and other stakeholders to request a sit-down with Kemp  Wednesday to discuss the problem.

Kemp’s takeaway, apparently, was that the issue was resolved. The staff changes would go forward, but gradually in a months-long transition. On Thursday, Kemp’s special assistant for legislative and external affairs (i.e. his lobbyist), tweeted his response to a link to my story:

That’s a very optimistic view, and one not shared by many of the nurses themselves. Lisa Eichelberger, dean of nursing at Clayton State University, said the state nursing board is functioning as well has it has in 20 years. The idea that Kemp would pull the executive director is confounding, she said.

“We just can’t understand why now,” she said.

January 27, 2015 - Atlanta - Brian Kemp in a staff meeting at his office in the Capitol. The office of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is in line for an almost 10 percent budget increase next year, a financial pat on the back from Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is getting pushback from nurses for his plan to remove the executive director of the Georgia Board of Nursing. BOB ANDRES/BANDRES@AJC.COM

Emory University Nursing School Dean Linda McCauley said she believes Kemp’s stated rationale that the move was to allow “cross training” of staff among his office’s dozens of professional boards, but she questioned if this was the place to start.

One issue is that Cleghorn is on the board of directors for a national nursing organization, a post he will have to leave if transferred to cosmetology. That robs Georgia of an important voice, several nursing leaders told me.

“Why would you take a strong leader from your largest board and remove him?” McCauley said.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, was not at the meeting but said she has heard continued discontent from the nursing industry. Unterman, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is a nurse herself, said the disagreement with Kemp’s office only bolsters a sentiment on the board to be removed from the Secretary of State’s authority, she said.

You can read more about this unfolding drama in this week’s AJC Watchdog column here. 


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