Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste
By Founding Member Virginia Trotter Betts
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shined a harsh bright light on US health care revealing a myriad of absent, ineffective, and/or stifling federal and state health policies. Over the past 16 months, the Nation has frequently come up short on so many essential health system pillars: safety, access, equity, affordability, quality, accountability, and sustainability. To that end, as difficult as the pandemic has been for all of us in nursing and health care, now is the time to use that intensity to focus on “what worked and what did not” as an impetus for demanding on going and permanent (rather than temporary or emergency) health policy changes that will benefit the Nation, health consumers, and every healthcare professional. Nurses Everywhere has a list of Pandemic GAINS to RETAIN that we will start sharing with you today.
STRENGTHENING PUBLIC HEALTH for ALL
Health science and technology is rapidly evolving and needs to be better understood in order to be accepted and applied by individuals, families, and communities. Now is an opportune time to utilize professional nurses (the Nation’s most trusted professionals) as THE Face and Voice to promote health literacy; to reassure the public about vaccine safety and the value of vaccinations; and to teach practices of effective public health measures to prevent/mitigate infectious disease spread our communities as we move forward. As Nurses Everywhere, we ask you to do your part for public health: Wear a mask. Keep 6 feet apart. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated when it is your turn. Eat nutritious food. Get 6-8 hours of sleep. Exercise. Wear your seatbelt. Be connected to others. Help your neighbor. Ask for help when you need it.
IMPROVING ACCESS to QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
Registered nurses are critical, essential health care providers in every setting. We are both illness and wellness professionals and, whenever there is need (as in the pandemic), we show up with expertise, commitment, and compassion. It should not take an emergency order by the President, HHS, or a governor to meet the demands of states and cities to access necessary expert nurse staffing. Every state needs to enhance their permanent nursing workforce as well as accept nursing professional licenses across state lines to facilitate mobility and provide a balance for supply that meets evolving, dynamic public need. As Nurses Everywhere, we ask you to make a call or write an email or letter and encourage your Governor and State Department of Health Commissioner to participate in the national multi-state licensure program called the Nurse Licensure Compact. Ask your state and federal representatives to fund nursing scholarships and loan forgiveness programs to enhance the permanent nursing workforce in each state giving special attention to bring a diversity of students into nursing and those who seek to serve rural and underserved populations.
The US health delivery system is the most expensive in the world but does not achieve the positive outcomes that should come from such a huge economic investment. The US system focuses the majority of its resources on acute, illness care and is overly dependent on physicians and hospitals rather than on a cadre of well-prepared health providers on a community services continuum. A prime example of misplaced policy is the over regulation of nurses frequently at the behest of physician organizations. Decades of research have evidenced that Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) provide safe and high quality care to patients in every health care setting with outcomes equal to or better than their physician counterparts and at a more affordable price in both education and practice options.* Yet APRNs have the ability to practice at the top of their knowledge and expertise as authorized in state law (i.e. full practice authority) (FPA) in only 23 states. Making FPA a reality in every state for APRNs (including both specialty and primary care settings) will both increase consumer access to needed care services and can also make these health services more affordable, readily available, and convenient. This is especially true when APRNs are afforded enhanced roles, privileges, and authority within federal qualifying health centers (FQHCs), hospitals, and long term care facilities as has occurred during the pandemic. Likewise, there was an exponential growth of telehealth services reimbursed equivalent to in person services and delivered within and across state boundaries by a variety of providers including APRNs. These telehealth enhancements resulted in improved access to scarce specialty services such as behavioral health; increased consumer adherence to care regimes especially for chronic illness management; and enhanced provider and consumer satisfaction. As Nurses Everywhere, we ask that you join with us and with nursing organizations such as your state nurses association or nursing specialty organizations as well as with consumer groups such as AARP to enact state legislation and/or regulatory changes necessary for nurses to have Full Practice Authority and to practice, direct care, and be reimbursed across a variety of settings.
WHAT COMES NEXT…. AND WHY NOW?
When asked what gives nurses hope after one year into the Pandemic, nurses have said: deep love of the profession itself; gratitude for access to information, science, and lessons learned; and feeling seen and recognized by the public for their critical role in health care delivery.
That recognition of honor and gratitude toward nurses by the public now needs to translate into action by our federal and state policy makers who must insure that the pillars to achieve our Nation’s health are realized. Please keep coming back to the Nurses Everywhere website for our evolving list of Pandemic GAINS to RETAIN. We also would love to hear from you if you have items to add to the list from your own experience and perspective. Also let us know how we can make it easy for you to join Nurses Everywhere in taking action to assure that better policy solutions are ahead.
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