Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, recognized National Nurses Week with a written statement of the Obama administrations support of nursing.
Calling nurses the “healthcare providers at the heart of our healthcare system,” Sebelius said the “success of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of access to healthcare that it offers will not be possible without these trusted professionals. The healthcare laws emphasis on keeping people healthy, preventing illness and managing chronic conditions opens new opportunities for nurses to shape and lead the future delivery of healthcare and capitalizes on the expertise of the nursing profession.”
As an example, Sebelius cited $1.5 billion in appropriations to increase home visits from nurses and social workers to expectant mothers in high-risk communities. “Nurses making home visits can sharply reduce infant mortality and improve outcomes for mothers and children alike,” she said.
Through the Affordable Care Act, the number of training and educational opportunities for nursing students and graduates to acquire the skills necessary to enter the health workforce is expanding, Sebelius said.
Through several advanced nursing education initiatives (http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/nursing/grants/ane.html), for example, an additional 2,800 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives will enter the primary care workforce over the next five years.
HHS also has made significant investments in building the nursing workforce through scholarship and loan repayment programs, Sebelius said. The National Health Service Corps (www.nhsc.hrsa.gov), which offers scholarship and loan repayment in return for practice in underserved areas, has grown from 3,600 in 2008 to nearly 10,000 in 2012 and includes more than 1,600 nurses.
The administration also wants to ensure nurses are not left behind as healthcare providers across the country switch to electronic health records. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technologys regional extension centers provide technical assistance to help more than 23,000 nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and RNs achieve meaningful use of electronic health records.
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/repayment/nursing), which includes approximately 3,000 RNs and APRNs, helped repay the loans of more than 700 nurses in fiscal year 2012. The group included 506 nurses at critical shortage facilities and 214 nurse faculty at accredited eligible schools of nursing; 86% percent of the awards were made to nurses working in areas of the country where their services are most needed.
In FY 2012, 263 students were awarded Nurse Corps scholarships, with about 220 scholarship awards expected to be made for the 2013-14 school year.