Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell assumed the chairmanship on May 26 of the Advisory Council of Raise the Voice, a campaign of the American Academy of Nursing that seeks nurse-led and nurse-designed solutions to health care challenges. It is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Rendell, takes the reins from Donna Shalala, Ph.D., A.B., president of the University of Miami in Florida and the former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Clinton. She held the Raise the Voice position for three years.
Calling himself a strong believer in “the power of nurses,” Rendell pledged to work closely with Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas who now heads the HHS. He spoke at a National Press Club panel discussion in Washington, D.C., that examined Pennsylvania’s leadership position on health care reform.
“I believe that nurses are a vital and integral part of the plan to providing more affordable and accessible health care to our citizens,” he said in his statement. “I look forward to working with the American Academy of Nursing to continue shaping public health policy that will benefit our citizens today and in the future.”
Rendell is well known for his successful efforts to unshackle nurses from laws and policies that prevented them from practicing to the full extent of their abilities.
As governor, he promoted the Prescription for Pennsylvania, a set of initiatives designed to improve access to high quality, affordable health care in Pennsylvania. Among those initiatives is legislation that lifts practice restrictions on nurses.
These “scope-of-practice” laws have greatly increased access to high quality, affordable care, he said. One of the most visible examples of that is the growth of so-called “minute clinics”—health care clinics led by nurse practitioners that are located in retail stores and that are open during and after normal business hours and on weekends.
These clinics provide easy access to reasonably priced primary health care services, Rendell said. Proponents also say they will help offset problems that arise from a physician shortage as the population ages and as millions more people enter the health care system as reform is implemented. Pennsylvania now has 41 retail health clinics, which have helped prevent 150,000 unnecessary—and costly—visits to emergency departments, Rendell said.
Nursing Workforce Experts Address Nurse-Led Solutions to Health Care Problems
Rendell spoke after a panel of nursing workforce and consumer experts addressed various ways nurses can improve access to quality, affordable care. In addition to nurse-led clinics, panelists highlighted the successes of nurse-led home care programs for the elderly and nurse-led care programs for those transitioning from the hospital to their homes.
The federal health reform law, panelists added, also has good news for nurses.
The law names and identifies nurse-managed clinics, which will help raise awareness about nurse-led health care delivery models, said Eileen Sullivan-Marx, Ph.D., C.R.N.P., F.A.A.N., an associate dean at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Susan Reinhard, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., director of the AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, highlighted the provider-neutral language in the law. “That was very deliberate,” she said, adding: “It gives that flexibility to develop sensible policies.” The Center is a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Tine Hansen-Turton, M.G.A., J.D., executive director of the National Nursing Centers Consortium, however, issued a note of caution:
"Although health care reform is now law, a lot of work remains to be done to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, she said. Millions of patients can’t get same-day appointments or don’t have access to primary care providers, and half of emergency department visits are for people who have non-emergency conditions, she said. “We have to ask ourselves, does coverage equal care?”