Loretta C. Ford is an internationally recognized nursing leader who is known as the founder of the nurse practitioner movement. As a nursing educator, she was the first to recognize that nurses with advanced education and practice opportunities could provide diagnostic and treatment services that would not only improve patient care but would also solve the critical shortage of health care providers and provide access to quality care in rural and underserved areas. Today that initial idea has developed into a global phenomenon, with over 158,000 nurse practitioners in the United States alone and thousands in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Thailand, Africa, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Ford received her RN in New Jersey and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force as a nurse during World War II. She came to the University of Colorado (CU) College of Nursing after the war, and earned her bachelor’s and then master’s degrees there. For 10 years she was a public health nurse and then director of nursing for the Boulder City County Health Department. In 1955 she was appointed assistant professor at the CU College of Nursing. She received her doctorate in education from CU in 1961 and became a full professor in 1965. There she began work with colleague Dr. Henry Silver to develop the nurse practitioner curriculum and model of nursing practice. She pioneered a pediatric model in Colorado that has been replicated and expanded into the fields of family health, gerontology, adult health, mental health, school health, and other fields, most at the graduate level.
Ford has written more than 100 publications and made more than 150 presentations throughout the world on the nurse practitioner movement. She is a charter Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and senior member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. She has received numerous awards, the most recent in 2011 when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.