ENA demands HHS include emergency nurse in advisory group


    CHICAGO - Mar. 31, 2005 - The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt calling on the department to add a registered emergency nurse to the recently established EMTALA Technical Advisory Group.

    The advisory group is responsible for evaluating regulations affecting hospital responsibilities under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) for patients who visit hospitals requesting treatment for possible emergency medical conditions. It works with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop rules that protect individual rights and minimize unnecessary burdens on hospitals, physicians, and nurses.

    Text of the letter follows:

    The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), a voluntary membership organization comprising nearly 27,000 emergency nurses, would like to express its concern and dismay that a qualified, registered nurse from an emergency department was not appointed to the EMTALA Technical Advisory Group. A complete account of our nation's emergency care system and the effect that EMTALA is having upon it is not possible without hearing from these professionals.

    In the vast majority of our nation's emergency departments, nurses are the first individuals to provide care to patients. The nurse's interaction with patients takes place before the patient sees a receptionist for registration, a physician for a medical screening exam (the nurse may even be the person to do the initial medical screening exam), a lab or x-ray technician for testing, or other health care professionals for the specialty care that they provide. Nurses are required to be knowledgeable about EMTALA regulations to ensure that patients are not inadvertently screened away from the emergency department and are cited as defendants in law suits against hospitals when violations are alleged. Clearly, nurses are centrally involved in emergency care from the initial contact a patient makes with the hospital emergency department and, as such, have a perspective and knowledge that are not represented in the current structure of the EMTALA TAG.

    ENA requests that this oversight be addressed immediately by adding to the Technical Advisory Group a practicing registered nurse drawn from the field of emergency nursing.

    Thank you for your consideration of our request.

    Sincerely yours,

    Patricia Kunz Howard, PhD, RN, CEN


    About the Emergency Nurses Association
    The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is the only professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing and emergency care through advocacy, expertise, innovation, and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA serves as the voice of nearly 27,000 members and their patients through research, publications, professional development, injury prevention, and patient education. Additional information is available at ENA's Web site, at www.ena.org.
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