I always wanted to be a nurse because I wanted a career where I could make a living for my family and also give back to the community. I began my career caring for seniors in a nursing home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then went on to work as a neurological nurse. I then spent almost 15 years as a public health nurse.
Over the last 25 years, the demands of the profession have evolved as has technology and the needs of our patients. What remains unchanged is the commitment that nurses on the front lines of care have to their patients. These are just some of the things on my mind this National Nurses Week as we recognize the work of America’s three million nurses delivering the highest quality care to millions of families.
It has been more than two years since the Affordable Care Act became law. But since its passage, right-wing conservatives have focused on fighting the same old political fights, rather than focusing on the benefits that the law provides to patients and its vision for the future of care in this country. Now, the law’s fate weighs in the balance of the upcoming Supreme Court decision determining its constitutionality.
Under the ACA, 129 million Americans who are routinely denied coverage by the health insurance industry due to pre-existing conditions are now able to get coverage. More than 32 million working Americans who simply cannot afford the skyrocketing costs of health care can now get coverage.
Every day in hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms nurses routinely see patients without insurance who have delayed care for too long because they were fearful of the cost. This means nurses spend many hours providing “reactive care” instead of “proactive care,” which means poorer health for our patients. The nurses I work with tell stories of seeing patients in the emergency room days, weeks, even months after preventive care was a practical option.
Patients have more medical treatment alternatives if a mammogram reveals a cancerous tumor at stage one rather than at stage four, or if a preventive check-up reveals a tendency toward diabetes that can be treated and monitored before the disease escalates. The Affordable Care Act makes this kind of preventative care possible for all Americans. Yet we know that roughly 1 out of 2 Americans don’t know these facts.
The Affordable Care Act emphasizes quality with a patient-centered initiative that enables nurses to share and build upon best practices for care delivery. As nurses, we know that successful health care cannot happen in a vacuum. And with a new wave of baby boomers driving the transformation of our long-term care system, the Affordable Care Act is an enormous step in the right direction.
For the politicians in Washington who would continue to play politics with health of Americans, or seek to take away the benefits of the law, nurses ask them to think about the care we deliver every day, the good jobs that the health care industry generates, and the communities that this law is already helping.
That’s not empty rhetoric. Those are facts.
Dian Palmer chairs the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 85,000 registered nurses in 21 states and is committed to a strong and unified voice for nurses and quality, affordable health care for all.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Pratik Shah/The Washington Times/Landov)