As I conclude my ANA presidency and 4 years of what has been an amazing time for health care in this country, I think of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us as nurses. So many of these opportunities have been made available to nurses via the new healthcare reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). While ANA has been instrumental in leading the nurses’ charge for healthcare reform and passage of this act, its enactment into law is only the first step. The next crucial step—one for which ANA will need your support—is the development and feedback about the rules and regulations that will implement PPACA.
But beyond that, this is an incredibly important time for every nurse to truly engage in making the provisions of the law reality. True healthcare reform will occur over the next 10 years, and this is where our profession can really demonstrate its leadership and relevancy to the public we serve.
What do I mean by that? Take, for instance, the provisions in the new law for expanding community-based health centers. PPACA encourages and supports nurse-led centers and school-based clinics. As a nurse, I know these models have been used and funded in limited circumstances in the past. But here is an opportunity for nurses to make this happen in every community and every school system. Will it be easy? No. Do nurses have the ability to make it happen? You bet. Are nurses central to the future success of these centers and clinics? Absolutely, if they step up to the plate, make it happen, and insist on being central to the efforts. Don’t let this opportunity pass us by.
The new law’s provisions for wellness and preventive services are another example. You and I know that nurses have been championing such services for nearly 100 years. Nursing and ANA have their roots in public health and the prevention of illness, injury, and disease. In some of my speeches as ANA president, I have talked about Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing. She was very focused on the air being pure within as without. So here is an opportunity for nurses to reach out and reclaim that history and expertise and to become entrepreneurial in creating the services that will finally recognize nursing’s important contributions to this arena. If we don’t do this, other healthcare professionals will; they are already looking to see how they can capitalize on the new provisions. Are we primed to do it ourselves?
Yet another strength that nurses contribute is coordination of care. We are uniquely educated to anticipate and direct care that supports decisions appropriate for the individual patient and family, and that care is connected to all the services that will support every individual’s recovery and return to independence. Guess what? PPACA supports exactly that kind of thinking and nursing opportunity. We must design and implement care models that will support the coordination of decisions and services for patients and families. You are key to this. Will you step up to the challenge—or will you let others do it instead?
I could go on, but I think you understand the importance and substance of the opportunities now before us. It isn’t just about providing care to another 32 million individuals, although that task is daunting in itself. It’s about providing the kind of care nurses were educated to provide, the kind of care that drew each of us into nursing. When I think about what has happened in the past 4 years, I feel it has been as important as landing on the moon for the first time. For our profession and the public, this is truly the best of the best. Seize the moment. Make it yours.
Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR
President, American Nurses Association