Nursing industry angles for windfall of VA jobs

The trade group representing nurse practitioners is moving to position its members for a windfall of new jobs expected as part of an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs’s healthcare system.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald announced plans in September to hire tens of thousands of new clinicians as part of a plan to restructure the agency, following a scandal involving lengthy wait times at agency-run healthcare facilities that led to the ouster of his predecessor, Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiVeterans group blasts VA secretary, despite words of regret Cruz: VA secretary 'should resign' VA secretary refuses to apologize for Disney comments MORE.

The VA is expected to put the plan into effect on Tuesday, which is Veterans Day.

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The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) pressed the VA to consider its members as top recruits for the new jobs.

“Improving veterans’ access to high quality medical care will be an important undertaking in the new administration,” AANP President Ken Miller said in a prepared statement. “Nurse practitioners are willing and able to assist in increasing veterans’ access to the medical care they deserve.”

The call is among the group's top 2015 goals, outlined Monday as a kickoff to National Nurse Practitioners Week.

The group is also urging the agency to change its policy to allow nurse practitioners, who are authorized to prescribe medication and to access an expanded range of healthcare provider duties at the VA. Nurse practitioners want to be able to evaluate and diagnose patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests and prescribe and manage patients' treatment.

The AANP is also pushing for Congress to pass the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act and the Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women and Children Act.
 
Other federal legislative priorities for the group include getting nurse practitioners the authority to document evaluations of durable medical equipment, certify Medicare patients for Hospice care and perform admittance exams and monthly patient assessments in skilled nursing facilities.
 
“More and more policy makers are championing efforts to ease needless restrictions on nurse practitioner practice in recognition of their invaluable role in protecting the health of patients and communities, particularly those that have been historically underserved,” Miller said in a statement. 

This story was updated at 1:04 p.m.