Letter to the editor: AANP president responds to 'Physicians take issue with VA's proposed rule for APRNs to work to top of license'

Cindy Cooke, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, submitted the following letter to the editor in response to the May 25 article published by Becker's Hospital Review, 'Physicians take issue with VA's proposed rule for APRNs to work to top of license.'

Physicians are decrying a proposal by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would give veterans direct access to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in our nation's veterans facilities, absent so-called physician oversight. Rightly, this rule is focused on veterans and the need to reduce the egregious wait times vets must endure to access care in the VA health system, not the desires of the physician lobby. Today, our nation's veterans are waiting as long as six months and in tragic cases, dying waiting for health care.

In 21 states and the District of Columbia, nurse practitioners are already authorized to work autonomously. The VA's proposal aims to give veterans nationwide access to this same high-quality health care already enjoyed by millions of Americans. While the physician lobby is attempting to win public support by suggesting important healthcare decisions will be turned over to "nurses" lacking the necessary training and expertise to meet the needs of veterans, it's important to recognize their strategy for what it is: a scare tactic designed to diminish the significant skills, training and experience APRNs offer patients.

NPs aren't new to delivering health care or to the needs of our nation's veterans. They bring more than six years of clinical training, experience, an advanced degree and national certification to every patient encounter. This significant education and clinical experience extends far beyond their preparation as Registered Nurses (RNs) and uniquely qualifies NPs for the clinical responsibilities of ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing patients and managing treatment plans. More than 70 members of Congress have co-sponsored legislation endorsing a similar measure.

As a profession, NPs hold more than a 50-year track record of providing safe, effective, patient-centered care in more than 870 million patient visits annually, including treatment of our nation's veterans. Decades of data and over 100 studies of patient outcomes clearly demonstrate that NPs' track record of patient health outcomes match or exceed that of their physician counterparts.

It's time to stop the scare tactics and solve the crisis of care in our VA health system. Let's bring the skills and expertise of the VA's 4,800 NPs directly to our nation's veterans -- and honor our heroes with the high-quality health care they deserve.

Cindy Cooke DNP, FNP-C, FAANP

President

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

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