America’s veterans have served on the front lines to protect our freedom. And as a grateful nation, we must do our part to protect them. But right now, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there is a backlog of more than 505,000 veterans waiting 30 days or longer to receive medical care at VA facilities across our country. Let’s make a collective commitment to better serve those who have served our nation.
Veterans, the VA, and the health care community all agree, we need to give our veterans better access to care in our VA system. That is why the VA has proposed a solid plan to modernize the VA system and adopt a 21st century approach to health care delivery.
On May 25, the VA issued a proposed regulation that would give veterans direct access to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners (NPs), at its facilities. This common sense step forward will streamline veterans’ access to the high-quality health care delivered by NPs, who have a 50-year track record of service to patients, including our nation’s military and veterans, and reduce wait times.
More than 4,800 NPs work at VA facilities providing clinical assessments, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, making diagnoses, and initiating and managing treatment plans, including prescribing medications. They hold advanced degrees, national certification, and bring years of clinical expertise to patient care.
And today, patients in 21 states and the District of Columbia already have direct access to NPs with care outcomes equivalent to their physician counterparts. In the last year alone, NPs provided more than 800 million patient care visits. So it makes perfect sense for the VA to provide veterans with access to these highly qualified providers.
So what’s standing in the way? The physician lobby. Rather than seeking to streamline the delivery of timely high-quality health care at VA facilities, the physician lobby is seeking to protect its profession’s turf and is actively working to block the proposal.
Meanwhile, organizations from the Military Officers Association of America to the Air Force Sergeants Association are weighing in to support the rule, which is open to public comment until July 25. And so should you.
The VA’s proposal recognizes the results of decades of research confirming the outstanding patient outcomes NPs deliver. This large and ever growing body of evidence has led the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others to recommend providing patients direct access to APRNs.
The proposed rule is zero risk at zero cost to achieve zero delay in delivery of care to veterans.
It is time to make care directly and more readily accessible to our nation’s veterans and to honor our heroes with the high-quality health care they deserve. The time is now to support the VA’s proposal to support the health care needs of America’s veterans.
Petra Goodman, PhD, WHNP-BC, FAANP, is a supporter of Veterans Deserve Care, an organization raising awareness of the need to strengthen health care for our nation’s veterans.