A new report from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) prioritizes several opportunities in the nursing profession for eliminating healthcare disparities, including the permanent removal of barriers to nursing care that were enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other key initiatives of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).
Third in a series of reports, the Future of Nursing Report 2020–2030 also calls for allowing nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training as well as ensuring that they are able to bill for those services.
The report examined how nurses responded during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the federal suspension of physician supervision requirements for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNAs) and other advanced practice nurses to allow them to work at the top of their education. The report calls for these changes to become permanent by 2022.
According to NAM, lifting nurse practice barriers is necessary to advance health equity. Allowing advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe medication, diagnose patients, and provide treatment independent of a physician, would significantly increase access to care, especially in underserved and rural communities.
“Nurses do most of their demanding work out of the public eye, particularly advanced practice registered nurses like CRNAs whom patients generally only see when they need surgery,” AANA President Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esquire said. “However, CRNAs are often the sole anesthesia provider in medically underserved rural and urban areas, ensuring important local access to surgical, obstetrics, and other care in those communities.”
Ensuring a diverse nursing workforce with the knowledge and skills to address social determinates of health (SDOH) is also a key opportunity for the future nurse workforce.
“Nurses see firsthand the results of racism and inequality, poverty, violence, substance abuse, unequal education, and inadequate mental healthcare,” President Sertich said. “When it comes to tackling these issues, nurses bring intimate knowledge and problem-solving experience, as well as the will and dedication to serve their country and fellow citizens.”
Advanced practice nurses such as CRNAs are members of one of the most trusted professions according to Gallup. CRNAs provide anesthesia care across all settings and in all patient populations and are the primary anesthesia providers in rural and underserved areas and on the battlefield in forward surgical teams.