In the new year, one aspect of advocacy is sorely needed: your involvement with the legislative process, such as showing support or opposition to a healthcare bill.
In past blogs, I have discussed the need to advocate for patients and yourself in ensuring safe and effective nursing care. It is important to know what is happening in Congress, especially in these turbulent times. Many bills are making their way through the legislative process right now.
One healthcare bill to watch
Of special interest to nursing and patients alike is H.R. 647, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act.
The data on palliative and hospice care speaks to the need for such a healthcare bill.
Palliative care seeks to focus on improving the quality of life for those facing serious illness and provide relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, according to the Center to Advanced Palliative Care.
About 90 million Americans live with a serious illness, such as diabetes, renal disease, stroke and dementia.
According to the CAPC, that number is expected to more than double during the next 25 years with the aging of baby boomers. Moreover, CAPC estimates that 12 million people in the U.S. could benefit from palliative care.
Hospice care, in contrast, provides comfort care and support, but there is no attempt to cure the patient’s terminal illness. It is not tied to a specific place and can occur in any setting, whether a hospital or a home. Death is estimated to be in six months or less, depending on the natural course of the illness.
In 2015, 1.4 million patients received hospice care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nursing also has taken a stand on the need for nursing leadership in palliative and hospice care. The National Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association is developing specialized resources to develop future nurse leaders in this specialty field of nursing.
What does H.R. 647 propose for nursing?
If the healthcare bill is passed, H.R. 647 intends to amend the Public Health Service Act to increase the number of permanent palliative care faculty in schools of nursing and promote education and research in both palliative and hospice care.
The bill allows for grants to schools of nursing, healthcare facilities, certification programs for certified nurse assistants, a partnerships between schools and facilities, along with programs and facilities.
If granted, the entity must train and educate individuals in providing “interprofessional team-based” palliative care, whether in an educational, hospital, hospice, home or long-term care setting.
If a grant is awarded, the entity must train individuals to provide palliative care, develop and disseminate curricula related to palliative care, train faculty members and provide continuing care to individuals who provide palliative care.
The healthcare bill also has mandatory, specific requirements for the dissemination of information to patients, families and healthcare professionals about the benefits of palliative care “throughout the continuum of care for patients with serious or life-threatening illness.”
One such requirement is providing specific information regarding services for patients administered by healthcare providers trained in hospice and palliative care, including pain and symptom management, psychosocial care and support for shared decision-making.
How can you follow this healthcare bill?
You may think following this healthcare bill or other bills (there are currently 33 pieces of pending legislation affecting healthcare and nursing), is too overwhelming, takes too much time or the legislative process is too complicated.
However, an online resource to dispel those concerns and help nurses become active in the legislative process is available. The website GovTrack provides a wealth of information on pending bills, their progress and the entire text of a bill, along with how to contact your legislators.
All you need to do is search for a specific healthcare bill or topic — such as nursing — to pull up any related legislation.
Using your voice
It is essential that legislative advocacy rests on knowing and understanding any proposed bill. This role requires that you regularly check GovTrack and other resources for bills affecting nursing practice.
If you support a particular bill, let your legislator know. If you don’t, voice your non-support and the reasons for that position.
If the bill passes, also consider:
- Seeking out continuing education and other educational programs, if you’re involved in direct patient care, to develop your expertise in this area of nursing practice.
- Encouraging your dean, if you’re a nursing faculty member, to apply for a grant and help develop a course or courses that meet the requirements of the legislation.
- Developing CE programs, in-service education and family-centered programs consistent with the mandates of the proposed bill if you’re a nurse educator in any healthcare setting.
- Providing required information in both your patient and family teaching role so all are aware of the care being provided.
- Seeking input from your constituents, if you are a nurse legislator, as to their support and vote for the healthcare bill if it is in the best interests of nurses and patients.
- Resolve to be an legislation advocate in 2020, not only on the federal level but the state level as well.
Take these courses to learn more about hospice and palliative care:
Hospice and Palliative Nursing (CHPN®)
(15 contact hrs)
Hospice and palliative nursing requires not only caring for patients with progressive illnesses but providing caregiver support. Earn certification to ensure you are well-versed in the nursing management of serious conditions and their impact on patients and their loved ones.
Palliative Care for the Pulmonary Patient
(1 contact hr)
Patients with chronic, progressive pulmonary diseases are a challenging patient population, as they often present with unrelieved symptoms that affect their quality of life. Palliative care is no longer considered end-of-life care. This comprehensive care is now offered to patients with chronic, progressive illnesses and diseases early in the disease process, thereby offering these patients a higher level of care and a better quality of life. An interdisciplinary approach to palliative care is essential to the successful treatment of these chronic pulmonary patients.
Identifying Pain in the Hospice Patient
(1 contact hr)
Hospice patients experience pain across multiple domains. Clinicians who care for hospice patients and their families need to be knowledgeable about the appropriate assessment and management of suffering in those experiencing serious life-limiting illness. This module will provide an overview of the different types of pain experienced by hospice patients and how to manage that pain.