American Nurses Association (ANA) President Becky Patton sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the nation's nurses strongly supporting HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. ANA has always been and remains committed to “the principle that health care is a basic human right and that all persons are entitled to ready access to affordable, quality health services.” One of the chief roles that a nurse has is that of patient advocate, so it is no surprise that nurses support this legislation on behalf of the people we serve.
As a registered nurse and a member of the ANA in Kansas, I am proud that the primary national professional organization representing our nation's 2.9 million registered nurses has taken a stand on what is clearly an essential component of reform, the public option. Nurses are the largest group of clinical health care professionals that exist in our system, so Congress should listen to us when we step up in support of legislation that is vital to the well being of our patients. The public option is the only reasonable approach to ensure choice and competition. Anything less is a facade.
While ensuring that our health care system provides quality care and remains solvent, HR 3962 recognizes the importance of advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) such as nurse practitioners and midwives as a key piece of containing costs. APRNs' lead on primary care is critical to reform and the availability of care.
Recognizing the need for more nurses today and especially in the future as our population ages, HR 3962 provides financial support for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs. These include:
- Grants for educational institutions to expand and strengthen education for advanced practice nurses and others in leadership roles.
- Workforce Diversity Grants will help students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds get through school while ensuring that racial and ethnic minorities have an increased representation in the profession of nursing.
- Grants are available to train specialized providers of care to the elderly and faculty for geriatric curricula as our population rapidly ages.
- The National Nurse Service Corps will incentivize the increase of nursing staff at facilities that have a critical shortage by repaying 60-85% of student loans for nurses who agree to serve at these locations for at least two years following graduation.
- The Nurse Faculty Loan Program helps to recruit much needed faculty by covering up to 85% of student loans for master's or doctoral programs if the recipient agrees to teach for a period of at least four years.
Nurses understand in an up-close-and-personal way that reform must happen now, and that we are a key element in achieving it. Even if we have to increase our national debt some to get this done it has to happen. The economic impact for the United States will be much worse over the long haul if we don't pass substantial reform now, not to mention the human impact. We need to be smart about how we do things and not waste money, but the human impact should always trump the dollar.