While the health care debate continues in the U.S., there's one voice you haven't heard much from: nurses. "A number of our professional organizations have testified about proposed health care reforms, but nurses have not been asked to the table as equal participants," said T. Heather Herdman, PhD, RN, Executive Director of NANDA International (NANDA-I).
"Nurses are the largest group of health care providers in the U.S.," Herdman stated. "There are 2.9 million practicing RNs who comprise 55% of the U.S. health care workforce. We spend the most time with patients; with health care expertise that is independent but complementary to physicians. We should be significantly involved in this public policy debate."
Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, President of NANDA-I, believes that by leaving nurses out of the debate one of the biggest health care issues facing this country is also being left out: Electronic Health Records (EHRs). "Literally every other developed country in the world uses EHRs because they improve the quality and safety of care," said Weir-Hughes. "Having standardized patient data, available and confidentially shared among stakeholders, whenever and wherever necessary, is essential to improving the health care system as a whole."
While current U.S. patient records span the continuum of care, they are not easily transportable. "We have moved toward patient-centered care, but our record keeping system has not kept up," added Herdman.
Another part of the EHR discussion centers on using standardized nursing language (SNL). SNL allows nurses to clearly capture, quantify and track the hours nursing professionals spend on patient care assessment, planning and services. "This information often gets lost in the daily room charges since nursing care is not reimbursed under the current system of health care; yet this information is incredibly valuable from both a quality of care and a financial standpoint," added Weir-Hughes.
NANDA-I is urging the President and Congressional leaders to bring more nurses into the conversation before decisions are made. Herdman stated, "It would be a tragedy to enact legislation or policy without a significant contribution from nurses."