AAOHN Urges Support for Bill to Increase Veterans' Access to Health Services

Pensacola, Fla. (March 12, 2015) - The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) applauds U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for their leadership in introducing the “Improving Veterans Access to Care Act of 2015.”

The bill, H.R. 1247, allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners (NP), certified nurse-midwives (CNM), clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) who work in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, ‘full practice authority.’ Full practice authority allows APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education and training and provides a common-sense solution to the challenges associated with ensuring America’s veterans have access to high quality health care services. AAOHN represents nearly 4,500 occupational and environmental health nurses and APRNs working in occupational health settings.

“Increasing resources to provide adequate health care services to our nation’s veterans is critically important,” said AAOHN President Pam Carter, MSN, FAAOHN. “Access to timely health care can also foster seamless transitions into the civilian workforce once veterans complete their military service. This legislation will make a significant difference in meeting the health care needs of veterans, and helps ensure our American heroes are physically and mentally prepared to contribute their vital job skills as civilian workers. In turn, increasing our supply of experienced workers will help safeguard our national economy.”

Currently, APRNs who work in VHA facilities are subject to the laws of the state in which they are licensed. Some states have restrictive laws that keep nurses from practicing to the full extent of their education. This restriction on nursing practice creates obstructions for veterans to receive needed health care and thus contributes to unnecessary suffering.

“Removing this obstacle that prevents APRNs from providing the full range of services their education and training prepared them to deliver will address staff shortages in the Veterans Health System and in turn will help alleviate delays in veterans’ access to health care,” Carter said. “Allowing impediments to accessing health care in a timely manner is a true injustice to the men and women who have served and suffered for our country.”

By allowing NPs, CNMs, CNSs and CRNAs to provide care to their full practice authority, the VHA can make the most use of these critical members of their health care workforce, maximize care delivery, and minimize waits and delays for care. Additionally, VHA recognition of APRN full practice authority would make the VHA consistent with the models already practiced by the U.S. Armed Forces, Indian Health Service, and Public Health Service systems where veterans can now use their VHA health benefits under the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-146).

AAOHN joins the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives, along with other national nursing organizations representing more than 240,000 APRNs, in calling on members of Congress to support this important legislation.

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) is a 4,500 member professional association dedicated to advancing the health, safety, and productivity of domestic and global workforces by providing education, research, public policy, and practice resources for occupational and environmental health nurses throughout the United States and the world. These professionals are the largest group of health care providers serving the worksite. AAOHN is comprised of chapter organizations that are incorporated agencies under their state regulations. For more information, visit www.aaohn.org.

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