In my travels around the country on behalf of ANA, I am often asked, “What does ANA do for me?” Members want to know what they are getting for their membership dollar, and they are right to ask this question.
I appreciate that the nursing community has several organizations that represent various sectors of our profession, and many of them are doing valuable work. Yet none of these organizations represents the totality of nursing as does the American Nurses Association. And this solidarity is more important than ever, as the new Congress and administration tackle comprehensive health reform.
If ever there was a time for nursing to come together as one, and for nurses to advocate for one another and the issues fundamental to our profession, it is now. Health system reform has returned to the forefront of American political and policy discourse, and I am proud that ANA continues to play a role, front and center, in representing the interests of nursing in these discussions.
ANA is working intensively to educate members of Congress and the new Obama administration about the vast contribution of nursing to the healthcare system.
In addition, for the past many months, ANA has been part of a select working group of 20 national organizations essential to the success of health reform, including medicine, insurers, the pharmaceutical industry, business, labor unions, hospitals, public health, and others. This “strange bedfellows” process, called the Health Reform Dialogue (HRD), has brought together groups that have been antagonistic toward one another in the past. Each historically has walked away from negotiations when its key concern did not appear in a piece of legislation exactly as sought, making the status quo everyone’s effective “next best” choice. None of these groups, including ANA, has the luxury of walking away from health reform this time around. No one can seriously defend the status quo any longer.
This HRD group’s agreements are significant and could well help to shape how health reform is approached in the 111th Congress. Perhaps ANA’s most important success in this process is the inclusion of healthcare workforce issues as an integral part of health reform. Without our relentless work in many quarters, I believe that elected officials and opinion-leaders would have continued in their failure to see the connection between the adequacy of the nursing workforce and patient safety and access to care. We now have a president, many members of Congress, and key stakeholders wedded to the concept that the education, development, deployment, and retention of the nursing workforce is key to successful health reform. I call that a major victory.
I am also thrilled that most comprehensive reform proposals put a heavy emphasis on prevention, care coordination, and disease management. These are essential nursing functions, and we must make sure that nursing’s role is likewise emphasized. Registered nurses are the only clinical health professionals educated within a holistic framework that views the individual, family group, and community as an interconnected system that can keep us well or help us heal.
In our work, ANA is not focused on just one type of nurse or one particular setting. We include the full spectrum of nursing, in all roles and settings. All nurses will find their practice changed in a reformed healthcare system—school nurses, nurses who work in large integrated practices, public health nurses, nurses who work in community health centers, hospital and clinic-based nurses, nurses in long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, advanced practice registered nurses—the list goes on. Nurses must be able to practice to the fullest extent of our scope in all roles and settings, and we must have adequate funding for our education, development, deployment, and retention. We all have a stake in this battle.
Regardless of where you practice or how you were educated, ANA is intent on making each of us heard during this national debate. Members of Congress are facing a daunting challenge, and will need all our expertise and support in making difficult decisions. They need to hear from you, their constituent—an expert who has seen first-hand the problems with our broken healthcare system and who has some ideas about how to fix them. Check ANA’s website, www.NursingWorld.org, for hot issues and help on how to contact your elected officials. You can be sure those elected officials will continue to hear from ANA on your behalf.