May 6, 2013
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on National Nurses Week
National Nurses Week gives us a chance to recognize the contribution of the health care providers at the heart of our health care system. Every day, nurses provide leadership, innovation and advocacy to meet the health care needs of Americans.
From making sure a young mother knows how to care for her toddler, to showing an elderly patient how to manage his diabetes, the role nurses play is more important than ever. The success of the Affordable Care Act, and the expansion of access to health care that it offers, will not be possible without these trusted professionals.
The health care law’s emphasis on keeping people healthy, preventing illness, and managing chronic conditions, opens new opportunities for nurses to shape and lead the future delivery of healthcare and capitalizes on the expertise of the nursing profession. For example, the Affordable Care Act appropriated $1.5 billion to increase home visits from nurses and social workers to expectant mothers in high-risk communities. Nurses making home visits can sharply reduce infant mortality and improve outcomes for mothers and children alike.
The Obama administration is committed to workforce development and education and training for nurses. Through the Affordable Care Act, the number of training and educational opportunities for nursing students and graduates to acquire the skills necessary to enter the health workforce is expanding. Through the Advanced Nursing Education Program, the law provides support for advanced nursing education to increase the primary care nursing workforce. Through several different advanced nursing education initiatives, an additional 2,800 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives will enter the primary care workforce over the next five years.
The Department of Health and Human Services has also made significant investments in building the nursing workforce through scholarship and loan repayment programs. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which offers scholarship and loan repayment in return for practice in underserved areas, has nearly tripled from 3,600 in 2008 to nearly 10,000 in 2012, including more than 1,600 nurses. The administration is also making sure nurses are not left behind as healthcare providers across the country switch to electronic health records. HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Regional Extension Centers are providing technical assistance to help more than 23,000 nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and registered nurses achieve meaningful use of electronic health records.
The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, which has approximately 3,000 registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, helped to repay the loans of more than 700 nurses in FY 2012 —including 506 nurses working at Critical Shortage Facilities and 214 nurse faculty working at accredited eligible schools of nursing. Eighty-six percent of the awards were made to nurses working in areas of the country where their services are needed the most. In FY 2012, 263 students were awarded NURSE Corps scholarships. It is expected that approximately 220 scholarship awards will be made for the 2013-2014 school year.
Please join me in thanking our nation’s nurses for the critical work they do in bringing better care and better health to all Americans.