Taylor Hittle, Legislative Aide for Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) and Anne Llewellyn RN-BC, MS, BHSA, CCM, CRRN during a meeting to discuss the National Nurse Act 2019

Taylor Hittle, Legislative Aide for Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) and Anne Llewellyn RN-BC, MS, BHSA, CCM, CRRN

August 1st marks the start of the August recess for the House of Representatives and the U.S.Senate. It is YOUR chance to visit YOUR Member of Congress when they are in their home offices. Many will do town hall meetings and other events to take YOUR temperature and to  ‘hear’ from you as to how they are doing at their jobs in DC. Are you happy with their performance? With the direction, the country is going? This is your time to use your voice and let them know. Your voice matters…so try to attend and event to meet your member of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.  Doing so shows you are paying attention and watching how they are representing you while they are in DC.

This post is titled, A Clarian Call for A National Nurse for Public Health. A Clarian Call is an expressed demand or request for action.  I am asking everyone reading this post to reach out to your Members of the House of Representative and the U.S. Senate to become a co-sponsor for The National Nurse Act.  The Bill in the House of Representatives is H.R. 1597 and Senate Bill is S 696. The Bills are identical and call for the Chief Nurse Officer for Public Health to be designated as the National Nurse for Public Health. Doing so will highlight the role of Chief Nurse Officer in the work he/she does while uniting the four million Nurses in the United States to work together to improve the health of people of the United States.

This article explains why this legislation is essential and shows you why this is the right time for the National Nurse Act to move forward. I ask you to share this post with your colleagues, your family, and your friends. We need everyone’s help to get the National Nurse Act passed.

Your help is critical. If I have learned anything from this journey, is that when constituents use their voice, politicians act.  Currently, we have tremendous support for the National Nurse Act, but we need your help to get it to the finish line! Thanks in advance for your help.

Read on!

With advances in research, innovation, and technology, we now save the lives of people with rare, complex, and chronic medical conditions who previously would never have had a chance to survive. At the same time, we continue to allow chronic, preventable diseases to plague our country.

We are learning that social determinants of health are one of the root causes of escalating healthcare costs throughout the United States. We know nutrition, living conditions, education, and transportation impact a person’s health and their ability to care for themselves. Traditionally these socioeconomic factors have not been part of the differential diagnosis for most physicians, but are part of the nursing assessment that helps build the patient’s plan of care.

Our healthcare system is excellent at treating advanced and complex conditions. But too often we fail to address the root causes of illness. Often we miss the opportunity to provide lifelong health education that could potentially save billions of healthcare dollars and transform what kind of healthcare will be available for the next generation.

People are expected to absorb a great deal of information regarding their health and healthcare, yet they often receive minimal instruction or support. The results point to escalating costs because people, our patients, do not navigate the complex healthcare system safely or efficiently without relying on assistance from the people who work in it.

So what is the solution?

No easy answer can be given in this article because of the complex nature of our current healthcare system. It will take leadership from those on the frontlines who provide care, particularly our public health leaders, to propose new and innovative ideas to reduce costs and improve access.

On the practical side, there is innovative federal legislation currently working its way through Congress. The National Nurse Act of 2019 is a way for nurses to lead a sea change and address many of the issues contributing to the challenges the country is facing in healthcare.

In a nutshell, the National Nurse Act gives the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of Public Health, also to be known as the National Nurse for Public Health, the ability to mobilize the country’s four million nurses in a coordinated way to address issues that impact the nation’s health. By doing this, easy to understand health promotion and prevention guidelines can be disseminated in communities that will help in implementing policies mutually agreed upon by the Surgeon General and the CNO.

Nurses make up the largest sector of the healthcare workforce and every one of them is poised to lead a national movement towards improving public health. The National Nurse for Public Health would provide the uniting voice and leadership to do so. The National Nurse Act of 2019 calls for Congress to designate the same individual serving as the Chief Nurse Officer, a current position in the U.S. Public Health Service, as the National Nurse for Public Health.

Team meeting meet at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building for an appointment with the US Surgeon General and the Chief Nurse Officer, March 2019

Appointment with the US Surgeon General and the Chief Nurse Officer, March 2019

Let’s pause here for a question: Did you know there was a Chief Nurse Office of Public Health? Do you know what he/she does? Exactly! Not many nurses, let alone the general public know who the Chief Nurse Officer of Public Health is or what role this leader fulfills. Let me introduce you to the Current Chief Nurse Officer of Public Health.

The primary reason for designating the CNO as the National Nurse for Public Health is to elevate and enhance this critical position and to bring visibility to the essential role nurses have in promoting, protecting, and advancing the nation’s health.

 

So Why is a National Nurse for Public Health Needed?

These are just a few reasons. Additional supporting evidence is listed on the National Nursing Network Organization website. Please take a moment to review this data. By allowing nurses to practice at the top of their licenses, we can slow the growing epidemics of preventable conditions.

1. The obesity epidemic continues to worsen. In 2015-2016 the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million US adults. A 2018 study found that an average of 8.2 percent of Medicaid dollars go to treating obesity—with some states spending more than 20 percent of their Medicaid dollars on treating obesity and related illnesses. A widely recognized National Nurse for Public Health encouraging practicing nurses and other health professionals along with students enrolled in health professional programs to participate in health promotion activities in their local could have a tremendous impact.

2. Also, it is known that six in ten Americans have at least one chronic disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. Many don’t have the education or resources to manage these conditions effectively. This leads to severe complications that compound their conditions and contribute to escalating healthcare costs due to unnecessary hospital admissions and ED visits. A coordinated campaign promoting the dissemination of evidence-based practice focused on prevention has tremendous potential to save dollars and reduce suffering.

3. Our country is close to the worst outbreak of measles in 25 years. Think how powerful a National Nurse for Public Health could be in helping to deliver coordinated evidence-based messages to the public about measles prevention coupled with facts to dispel the myths about measles vaccines.

4. In 2015, the economic cost of the opioid crisis was $504.0 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP that year. This is over six times larger than the most recently estimated economic cost of the epidemic. The opioid epidemic is taking the lives of many, not only by death but by incarceration. As one of the Surgeon General’s signature efforts, having nurses on the team would assist in a cultural shift in the way Americans talk about the opioid crisis, prevent and treat opioid misuse and promote recovery.

What Will the National Nurse for Public Health Do?

This seems to be the biggest stumbling block for groups that want to remain neutral or who are opposed to the National Nurse Act. We ask everyone to read the bill before deciding an endorsement to the National Nurse Act. So man people have made false assumptions on what they think the bill will accomplish because they haven’t taken the time to read the legislation. Please take a few minutes to read the National Nurse Act, so you know for yourself what the bill states.

The current duties and responsibilities of the current Chief Nurse Officer are retained, except preparing a biennium report on the nursing category of the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS. As a national advocate for nursing actions, the Chief Nurse Officer will continue to champion public health in all communities, but this unique designation National Nurse for Public Health, will not only highlight and this nurse leader’s work but also the importance of the entire USPHS.

Board Member Anne Llewellyn and colleague Robin Boltz meet with Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-22-D) Legislative Director Ian Wolf to discuss the National Nurse Act 2019

Anne Llewellyn and colleague Robin Boltz meet with Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-22-D) Legislative Director Ian Wolf

Designating the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS as the National Nurse for Public Health via Congress may seem like a lofty goal, considering the current political climate. It is not. Currently, this legislation is endorsed by over 105 national and state nursing organizations, labor representing nursing, and key stakeholders. Additionally, there is strong bipartisan support that includes 123 co-sponsors for the House version of the bill and ten cosponsors for the Senate companion bill.

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, and together, we can do so much. Isn’t it time that nurses used their voice to advocate for the cornerstone of our practice-health promotion and prevention- regardless of our educational background, practice setting, or specialty? The National Nurse Act is common sense and requires no additional funding to implement. If you agree, then please join in support of the National Nurse Act for Public Health.

How can YOUR Help

The best way for you to help is to visit or call your Member of Congress to tell them you support H.R. 1597. Calling takes a few minutes. Members of Congress act when people from their districts contact them and support a specific Bill.

As I mentioned above, Members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be in their home offices in August.  Please take time to make an appointment and visit them to show your support for the National Nurse Act. Hearing from YOU, their constituents is the number one reason they will sign on as a co-sponsor. If you can make a visit, call the office first to make sure they are open!

In a recent visit to DC, the Board was told that in order to get a Hearing on HR-1597 we need 211 members of the House of Representatives to sign on as a co-sponsor.  Currently (as of July 31, 2019) we have 123. With your help, we can reach the ‘magic number’!

Please review Congress.gov to see if your member of Congress is signed on as a co-sponsor. If not, please make a visit to their office during the August Recess or call the office telling them that you support the National Nurse Act and request they become a co-sponsor.  If they are a co-sponsor, thank them for their support. The National Nursing Network has all the talking points you need to make a meeting or a call efficient or effective.

Last I am sharing a postcard that you can print off on 3 card stock/postcard size paper or on letterhead to mail to your Representative and Senators. Directions are included for how to find their mailing addresses are on the document.

Let’s flood the DC offices with postcards so that when members return in September, they will be reminded of YOUR voice and that you support H.R. 1597 /S 696, The National Nurse Act.

We have one month to do this and show that Your Voice Matters! Thank you for your help. If you have any questions or need information, please let me know. You can reach me at 954-254-2950 or via email at [email protected]

Thank you in advance for your help in getting the National Nurse Act passed.

Anne

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