The challenges facing President Barack Obama and Congress are tremendous, but Americans are making it clear they want healthcare to be a high priority on the national agenda.
In a national survey released Jan. 15 by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 43% of respondents said they view reforming healthcare as a top concern, ranking it third behind improving the economy at 73% and fighting terrorism at 48%.
We asked area nurses how they would advise the new president to improve the U.S. healthcare system.
What healthcare issue do you think the Obama administration should address first in 2009?
Florida Hospital, Orlando
People are living longer with complex medical problems. I would like to see nurses in a position to give insight into the needs of our ever-changing population by shaping public policy through appointment to Congressional committees. Nurses are in a unique position to offer expertise in healthcare policy.
— Karen Kelly, RN, Clinical Education
Holy Cross Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.Mary Naccarato, RN
Obama will face many healthcare issues — overcrowding of EDs, underinsured and uninsured, lack of primary care. Many underutilized advanced practice nurses await an opportunity to help by managing care in EDs, free-standing clinics, and in the home. However, reimbursement for APNs’ direct care needs to be recognized by insurance companies.
— Mary Naccarato, RN, MSN, CEN, APN
Lakeland (Fla.) Regional Medical CenterPamela Duncan, RN
Health and wellness — not just medical intervention — should be a healthcare priority. Such emphasis can impact the health of our nation and reduce healthcare costs by providing options toward disease prevention and lifestyle choices that preempt poor outcomes.
— Pamela Duncan, RN, BA, CCRN, TNCC, Chairwoman, Nurse Practice Council
Manatee Memorial Hospital, Bradenton, Fla.Jessica Vets, RN
As an emergency department nurse for 11 years, I think one of the main priorities in healthcare needs to be access to primary care, access that is efficient and consistent. A lot of our overcrowding issues in the ED are due to lack of primary care physicians in the community or restricted access, where it takes our patients who have a primary medical doctor one or two months just to get in to see them. Also, for nurses who want to continue their degrees and advance, there need to be tax cuts and funding.
— Jessica Vets, RN, ED Educator
Memorial Hospital Miramar (Fla.)Denise Reynolds, RN
The new administration should prioritize preserving our emergency care system, such as improving access to primary care, with incentives for participation in preventive or chronic disease management programs; increasing funding to reduce the economic burden of providing uncompensated care; and mandating equitable coverage for comprehensive healthcare services.
— Denise Reynolds, RN, MSN, Director of Emergency Services
Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Fla.Jason Kawa, RN
In the U.S. today, there are many healthcare issues that affect all populations. If the Obama administration is going to focus its efforts in one initial area, it should be around the health benefits of children. To guarantee the well-being of all children in this country is a responsibility that should be considered paramount.
— Jason Kawa, RN, BSN, RN III, Special Care Unit
W. Boca (Fla.) Medical CenterMary Alleavitch, RN
One of the most critical issues is the lack of affordable healthcare for all. We will see sicker patients showing up at the hospital. The pregnant mother who has had no prenatal care, the child who has never been immunized, or the patient with a medical condition who can no longer afford his or her medication will become more common.
— Mary Alleavitch, RN
West Boca Medical Center, Boca Raton, Fla.Maria Torres, RN
I believe the first issue that needs to be addressed is healthcare coverage for the uninsured. Hospitals across the country are overwhelmed with increasing numbers of people using the emergency department as their primary care centers because they do not have health insurance and cannot afford the pay-up-front clinics. Hospitals in turn react to uncompensated care with hiring freezes, layoffs, and cutbacks of services. In the end, everyone loses.
— Maria Torres, RN, Director, Emergency Department
University Community Hospital, Tampa, Fla.Mary Buck, RN
Address the critical shortage of nursing schools in the U.S. Estimates show we will need more than 500,000 RNs by 2010 and 1 million by 2020. Qualified people wait to gain entry for as long as two or three years. More schools, with well paid instructors, will decrease unemployment and help solve the nursing shortage.
— Mary Buck, RN, CCRN