Nurses have a lot to say, and often we are talking to ourselves. For example, we talk about how relevant nurses are in health care, how advanced practice RNs perform well as shown by numerous and consistent study findings, how important the issue of staffing is, and how critical school nurses are to the operation of a safe and healthy school environment. This is, as the adage says, like preaching to the choir. We already know the notes, we know the verses, and the refrain is memorized. But what about all those people who are not nurses? Do they even care about these issues or, as the Gallup Organization finds consistently, do they just see us as a most trusted profession?
A group of nursing and health care leaders and innovators throughout the nation, and some international representatives, came together to create a new group, NursesEverywhere. Their mission is to educate the public about their rights to access nursing care. (You can read more about the group at http://www.nurseseverywhere.com and follow them on TwitterTM @RNseverywhere.) People having rights to nursing care is another one of the messages we tell ourselves all the time; and now the public says they have rights about care.
This new group, NursesEverywhere, commissioned a study through The Harris Poll. This online survey was conducted in July 2020 (NursesEverywhere, 2020) and included over 2,000 adult respondents. This poll indicates that 89% of the respondents said they should be able to receive the same level of care after the pandemic as they did during the pandemic. They identified that minimum nurse staffing standards should be required (and met)—91% said that about hospitals, and 90% said that about nursing homes. Additionally, 86% of the respondents said school nurses were necessary and 75% believed nurses could provide care by telehealth. Further, 79% said they wanted nurses to play a greater role in their future health care. Almost 75% said nurses should be able to do what they have been educated to do “without requiring a doctor's oversight.” This is a critical point and one that is likely to cause disharmony between physicians and nurses.
In a July 22, 2020 letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), physician groups opposed the extension of nurses' expansion that had been approved during the pandemic. This letter was signed by over 100 national and state medical associations! Yes, I found some groups I have never heard of before. In a sense, I could almost hear the gate on the castle where the gold is stored snapping shut. This letter, sent to The Honorable Seema Verma, Administrator of the CMS, stated, “we urge CMS to sunset the waivers involving scope of practice and licensure when the public health emergency concludes.” Further, also stated in bold lettering, they say, “our organizations reaffirm our support for the physician-led team-based approach to care and vigorously oppose efforts that undermine the physician-patient relationship during and after the pandemic” (American Medical Association, 2020, p. 1). Interestingly, the next paragraph singles out nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The three other advanced practice RN roles (i.e., clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives) were not mentioned. Perhaps that is because we have fewer of those three specialties, or because their practice is not as evident to most physicians.
Patricia S. Yoder-Wise, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAONL, FAAN