Many people are relieved that 2020 is over and have expressed gratitude that they survived and are still “in one piece.” No one is likely to ever forget last year, as it will be remembered as one of the most challenging in history. The novel coronavirus created a pandemic that took more than 250,000 US lives. Frontline healthcare workers struggle with mental health disorders related to caring for massive numbers of patients with COVID-19 and watching too many of them die. In addition, racism, inequality, injustices, and exposed practices of police violence were triggers for social unrest, resulting in unrelenting protests and calls for action. High unemployment, financial hardship, and an uncertain future burdened many families.
The American people watched the impeachment of the President and followed it a few months later by voting in an unprecedented presidential election. In the midst of these events, recurring attacks from organized medicine on the integrity of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles and scope of practice continued. Although 2020 has passed, our fight for full-practice authority (FPA) seems to be never ending.
33rd APRN Legislative Update
This month, Dr. Susanne Phillips, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, once again presents a thorough and informative overview of APRN practice, particularly NPs, in the 33rd Annual APRN Legislative Update. One focus, of course, is the executive orders signed by governors last year in response to COVID-19 workforce needs within their states, granting waivers that temporarily removed barriers to practice for APRNs and other essential healthcare professionals during the public health emergency (PHE) declaration. Deadlines were extended multiple times in most states, and the waivers will most likely remain in effect through the duration of the PHE.
However, having privileges granted through these executive orders legislated into permanent changes is a fundamental action for NP advocacy. The goal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and affiliate state organizations is ultimately to gain FPA for every NP in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories. Read the report to become informed and learn where to find additional resources and evidence to take to your legislators. New and returning incumbent elected officials offer opportunities for engagement with their constituents; let them know your name, role, and how indispensable we are to our patients who love seeing an NP and to those who have yet to experience our care.
Vision with action
The pandemic lingers, and the world anxiously awaits an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine. Although most of us are tired of hearing about COVID-19, the reality is that we must learn to live with this formidable opponent. Patients may be returning to you for in-person health visits. NPs and other healthcare providers deserve safe work environments with the necessary personal protective equipment and other resources to ensure everyone's safety. Patients deserve high-quality care and a choice of healthcare providers (which means unobstructed access to APRNs). We must also ensure that care is cost-effective for the patient, the provider, and the healthcare system.
Throughout all of this, do not forget that we must care for each other. There is much work to be done. Nelson Mandela stated, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” We look forward to a different year in 2021, perhaps not to change the world, but definitely to shift things around and “get into good trouble,” as the late US Representative John Lewis would say. Happy New Year to all!
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN
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