There’s a surprise benefit expected to come out of the pending health reform legislation, and it has received little if any attention in the public debate. Congress is seeing fit to do something about the nursing shortage. Both House and Senate versions understand that, when for the first time you’re insuring 30 million or more new patients, you need to have adequate primary care providers. And you can’t depend on doctors to cover that need. You need highly skilled nurse practitioners to help in doing the screening, regular check-ups and preventive care.
A decade-long shortfall of nurses is only going to get worse as new patients enter the health care market and as our population ages. As outlined recently in the Metrowest Daily News by Antoinette Hays, RN PhD, Dean of the Regis College School of Nursing and Health Professions, the problem isn’t a lack of willingness to go into nursing but a lack of nursing faculty to teach the next generation of nurses and nurse practitioners.
House and Senate versions offer a variety of education assistance and loan repayment benefits for nurses and nursing faculty. This is the good news. It’s important to note that the bills provide authorization but still need appropriation at relevant stages of the process.
But the trend line is in the right direction, and it’s not a minute too soon!