What is COPE?

COPE is the Committee on Practice and Education which is one of the standing committees of the North Carolina Association of Public Health Nurse Administrators. The membership consists of an elected chair, an appointed  representative from each of the seven NCAPHNA regional groups, the Public Health Nurse Continuing Education and Research Specialist, four  members appointed by the NC Deans representing Baccalaureate education including one representing Higher Degree education in Public Health Nursing, and an appointed representative of the North Carolina Board of Nursing serving as an ex-officio member.

What are the duties of COPE?

The Bylaws adopted by the NCAPHNA state the duties as follows:

  1. Actively monitor the Nurse Practice Act and all other rules and prohibitions affecting nursing practice in North Carolina.
  1. Assess public health nursing practice needed in local health departments. Determine the extent to which public health nursing practice fulfills legal mandates and assures efficient, effective delivery of services.
  1. Determine the basic educational preparation required to assure safe, legal and desirable public health nursing practice.

Historical Information on COPE and NCAPHNA*

The North Carolina Association of Public Health Nurse Administrators evolved into the group it is today from it’s beginnings in the mid 1940’s.  In the mid to late 1930’s the first Public Health Nurse Consultants were appointed by the State Board of Health and made responsible for the development of the Public Health Nursing (training) Program in North Carolina. Initially nurses received their training at schools outside NC and returned to NC for field training. The early training consisted of six months of classroom work and three months of field training in an approved health department. The students were assigned to a staff advisor, a senior public health nurse. The consultants arranged sites for the field training and oversaw the information needed for awarding federal scholarships for the nurses.  In 1941 nurses could for the first time receive their classroom training in North Carolina with the establishment of the Public Health Nurse Certificate Program at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill.

The Lead Nurse Consultant’s need to consult with the local supervisors about the student nurses’ field training program as well as  the total Public Health Nursing Program led to the establishment of the North Carolina Supervising and Consultant Public Health Nursing Group. The title was later changed to the North Carolina Conference of Public Health Nursing Supervisors, Directors and Consultants and then to the current title. Historical information on meetings is available from the mid l940’s.

COPE was initially appointed in November 1979 by this group as an Ad Hoc committee to study Public Health Nursing Practice in the state. One of their charges was to survey the Public Health nurses and nurse leaders in the local health departments to ascertain what is expected of public health nurses and from that to develop a set of competencies for PHN’s at different levels of practice. Utilizing work done in other states, particularly South Carolina, the committee developed competencies which were adopted in November of 1982.  In l985 COPE was instructed by the Governing Board to review the 1982 PHN competencies. Using the ANA Standards of Community Health Nursing Practice and the North Carolina Nurse Practice Act as the framework, the PHN I competencies were revised and adopted by the Governing Board  in April l986. These competencies were again revised and adopted in January 2000 and can be found in the Public Health Nurse Manual of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, 2003.

*Information obtained from “History of the North Carolina Conference of Public Health Nursing Supervisors, Directors, and Consultants” Historical Committee, September 6, 1983; The Public Health Nurse Manual, NCDHHS, 2003; North Carolina Association of Public Health Nurse Administrators Bylaws , December 2000.

Ellen Shope, RN
Chair, COPE Committee