One year after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are subtle yet palpable signs of change in the nursing profession.
Changes in federal loan programs are allowing more nursing students to go to school on a full-time basis, which means they will be able to enter the workforce sooner and help curb a looming shortage of nurses that threatens to undermine patient care.
Ten health clinics around the country that are managed by nurses received a total of $15 million in federal funding, which will increase access to primary care services for thousands of low-income patients who might otherwise go without needed preventive services and treatment.
A group of nurse midwives in Minnesota was able to fight back state legislation that would have substantially cut payments for their services.
"The health reform law contains provisions that will produce more nurses to meet increasing demands for health care, prepare more highly-skilled nurses to better meet the needs of an aging population with more complex health problems, and create opportunities for nurses to participate in and lead efforts to redesign the nation's ailing health care system," said Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) senior adviser for nursing. "But we need broad system and culture change as well."
Many of the law's provisions that directly or indirectly relate to nursing have not yet taken effect, but health care professionals and consumers are beginning to see early signs of its potential impact on nursing and nurses and the patients they treat.
One provision that has been implemented allows nursing students to receive higher loan amounts from the federal government. These federal loan limits had not been adjusted for a decade despite the increasing cost of higher education, causing a widening gap between the cost of attendance and financial resources available to students and depressing enrollment. Nursing students will now have access to loan amounts that are more on par with the current cost of training, according to Suzanne Begeny, Ph.D., R.N., director of government relations for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Another provision authorized up to $50 million in funding for nurse-managed health clinics, $15 million of which has been allocated to support 10 nurse-led clinics--serving some 94,000 patients--around the country.
Medicare payments for services provided by certified nurse midwives will rise by 35 percent; certified nurse midwives will now receive the equivalent of physician pay for Medicare-covered services....