November 6, 2012—the day we choose the next president of the United States and congressional members will soon be upon us. Given the turmoil of healthcare reform, it's extremely important that nurses make well-informed decisions regarding the future direction of our country. As leaders in the largest component of the healthcare delivery team, we must ensure that our vote is delivered based on our values and beliefs.
Over the next 4 years, despite who wins the election, we'll need our politicians to support the Institute of Medicine recommendation for all nurses to work to the fullest extent of their licensure. This must be done to ensure access to healthcare is available to everyone in America. More than 40 states limit the scope and practice of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to work to the fullest extent of their education. Few states allow nurses the ability to open their own practice. Commonly, nurses must have a collaborating agreement with a physician, which means that they can practice as a licensed independent practitioner but they must partner with a physician on guidelines and protocols. Most disheartening is that there are over a dozen states that don't allow APRNs to practice at all. The need to support a candidate who'll vote for federal “top of licensure” legislation is a primary consideration when casting our ballots.
Patients deserve to have full transparency of medical records that are easily accessible via a patient portal and available for review at any time. Access to clinical data isn't merely a convenience; it can also improve patient safety. Many clinical studies have shown that if patients are active participants in their care, they're much more likely to recover quicker. However, the costs of electronic systems are daunting at best. Federal and state dollars earmarked to support building an electronic healthcare infrastructure need continued support. The development of a health information exchange will be the key to improving care in the future.
To ensure available human resources to meet the healthcare demands of our communities, scholarships, loan forgiveness, and other innovative methods of paying for nursing education are necessary. Government officials must recognize the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and make available funds for nursing students to pursue higher levels of education.
When choosing a candidate to support, review his or her past voting record on key healthcare reforms because past performance is indicative of future voting. Our professional associations can help us try to best understand the candidates' views on major healthcare issues. Remember to review nursing associations' endorsements, but also take the time to review the candidates' platforms based on your own personal values and beliefs. If you're so inclined, there are many ways to get politically active by volunteering your time to support a candidate.
As we witnessed in the presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, every vote really does count. The next 4 years are critical to the future of nursing practice. Get politically in tune over the next few months so your vote counts for nursing.