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Nurses want more say in healthcare reform debate

A professional nurses organization announced Thursday that they would like to be included in the ongoing debate over healthcare reform.

 "While a number of our professional organizations have spoken up and even testified on Capitol Hill about proposed healthcare reform efforts, nurses have not been asked to the table as equal contributors and participants in the national healthcare debate," said T. Heather Herdman, executive director of NANDA International, a professional nursing association.

"Nurses are the largest group of healthcare providers in the United States and throughout the world," Herdman said. "There are 2.9 million practicing registered nurses who make up 55 percent of the U.S. healthcare workforce. We spend the most time with patients; with health care expertise that is independent of, and complementary to, that of physicians. It just makes sense to have nurses involved in a significant way in this public policy debate."

NANDA-I develops, refines and promotes terminology that reflects nurses' clinical judgments. Dickon Weir-Hughes, the organization's president, said advancing healthcare IT is an important aspect of health reform.

An important part of the electronic health record discussion centers on using standardized nursing language, something government officials and lay people don't generally consider, Weir-Hughes said. SNL allows the nursing profession to clearly and unambiguously capture, quantify and track the hours nursing professionals spend on patient care assessment, planning and services.

"This information often gets lost in the daily room charges since nursing care is not reimbursed under the current system of healthcare reimbursement, yet this information is incredibly valuable from both a quality of care and a financial standpoint," said Weir-Hughes. "All of this should be part of the healthcare discussion. EHRs benefit patients and the healthcare system. "

NANDA-I is urging the president and Congressional leaders to bring more nurses into the conversation before hard and fast decisions are made.

"It would be a tragedy to enact legislation or policy without a significant contribution from the nursing profession," said Herdman.

On Sept. 10, the American Nurses Association joined President Barack Obama to show its support for health reform. And registered nurses have traveled to the White House to rally support for Obama's reform plan.

"Delay signals acceptance of an intolerable status quo that leaves too many people without basic access to needed health services and that endangers the financial stability of families, employers and the government," an ANA statement said.

ANA President Rebecca M. Patton praised Obama for advocating for people who lack access to basic healthcare services in the nation's "broken system" and fighting for consumer protections in the health insurance market.

Nurses have advocated for health system reform for two decades, Patton said.

"As nurses, every day we see first-hand the heart-breaking consequences of our nation's flawed system," she said. "We see patients in danger when they can't access or afford the care they need. We hold a patient's hand when they learn that their health insurance coverage has been denied or cancelled. And we see the day-to-day human cost of this system – in the eyes of our patients and their families."