ANA Calls For The Nurse Staffing Crisis To Be Declared A National Emergency

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The American Nurses Association (ANA) has urged the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) to address the critical shortage of nurses across the US urgently. They asked the Administration to declare a national nurse staffing crisis and immediately identify and implement solutions.

Nursing Shortages Have Reached Crisis Level

Every day for the past few weeks, US news feeds have been filled with reports on nurse shortages at hospitals, in towns, and statewide. They cannot recruit enough nurses to care for the soaring number of COVID-cases brought on by the Delta variant.

More and more nurses, who have now battled through one-and-a-half years of the pandemic, are retiring or resigning. Some are leaving their current jobs to fill shortages in hospitals offering huge sign-on bonuses and higher pay.

 “The nation’s health care delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight. Nurses alone cannot solve this long standing issue, and it is not our burden to carry,” said Ernest Grant, ANA President. “If we truly value the immeasurable contributions of the nursing workforce, then it is imperative that HHS utilize all available authorities to address this issue.”

ANA Advocates a National Strategy to Solve Nurse Shortages

As the national representative of over 4 million registered nurses in the US, the ANA sent a letter to Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, on September 1. The communication was also forwarded to the US Secretaries of Education and Labor.

The letter urged the Administration to acknowledge and address the crisis-level of nurse shortages, not only for the present but also to ensure an adequate nursing workforce in the future.  Otherwise, the current crisis would have long-term consequences for nursing, the health care system, and, ultimately, the health of American citizens.  

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The ANA suggested a whole government approach to finding and implementing solutions for the nurse staffing crisis involving all stakeholders. As a starting point for discussions, the ANA attached an extensive document with proposed policy solutions.

ANA’s Proposed Solutions

To address the nurse staffing crises, the ANA suggested that the HHS do the following:

  • Convene all relevant stakeholders to discuss the staffing challenges, not only related to nursing but the healthcare system as a whole.  The purpose of the discussion would be to come up with short- and long-term solutions.
  • Work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to find ways to appropriately reimburse services provided by registered nurses and ANP’s, recognizing them as primary care providers and ensuring pay equity.
  • Provide additional resources to support and increase nurse recruitment and retention to meet the current demand for critical health services created by the pandemic.
  • Remove regulatory barriers which prevent APRNs from practicing to the full extent of their education and training.  The ANA calls for permanent lifting of various restrictions on their scope-of-practice, many of which were waived in response to the pandemic.
  • Continue educating the public on the importance of the COVID vaccine and providing support and resources for the distribution and administration of vaccines.
  • Work with the nursing profession to ensure a resilient nursing workforce, able to meet the current and future demands for healthcare delivery. This includes effective workforce planning and also addressing a wide range of challenges, such as prioritizing nurses’ mental health, appropriate compensation to ensure retention, a supportive working environment which also involves nurses in decision making, and re-evaluating electronic health records requirements where they have become a burden which reduces nurses’ time with their patients.

Nurse Leaders Ready to Work with Government

The ANA committed to working with HHS and other stakeholders to address the current nurse staffing crisis and to find ways of ensuring a strong nursing workforce for the future.

“Our nation must have a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness to administer COVID-19 vaccines, educate communities, and provide safe patient care for millions of Americans,” said Grant. “We cannot be a healthy nation until we commit to address underlying, chronic nursing workforce challenges that have persisted for decades.”

Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

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