The nursing profession has adapted to large waves of change in recent decades, not the least of which has been the shift to baccalaureate education for pre-licensure candidates. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will stimulate another round of significant change in the scope of nursing practice as our current healthcare system restructures itself to accommodate millions of new customers. Many of these adjustments are still in transition, but the basic tenets of this new federal law hold a wealth of opportunity for nurses.
Here are two ways that nurses stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act:
More nurses will be needed in and out of the hospital.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Obamacare has fundamentally redefined health insurance. For the majority of Americans, purchasing health insurance is no longer a decision but a mandate, which means millions of new patients will enter the system this year. And these patients cover a variety of demographics:
- More children will have access to pediatric care, including dental and vision.
- Millenials at the start of their careers are now able to stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26.
- Pregnant women who may have never seen a doctor before delivery are now able to receive consistent maternity and newborn care.
- Low-income families previously unable to pay for non-emergency services such as vaccines and well-check visits now have coverage for these services.
- Seniors who participate in Medicare are enjoying new provisions including lower drug costs and free preventive services like flu shots, smoking cessation counseling and no-cost screenings for cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
Increased access to health care and specifically preventative services should reduce the overall cost of health care over time. After all, visits to the ER are more expensive than a trip to your primary care practice. To help reduce costs and the need for acute and emergency care, healthcare organizations are moving away from a fee-for-service model where doctors are the primary caregivers to an accountable care model that relies on teams of professionals working together to confirm that patients are following their treatment plans as directed.
Nurses are ideal providers of this care. Advanced practice nurses in particular have the education and training to perform many of the same services as MDs but at a lower cost to the healthcare system. In fact, an ACA initiative called the Advanced Nursing Education Expansion Program allocated $30 million to support academic training programs for nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives.
Nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing are in a perfect position to pursue the graduate study required for advanced clinical roles, and our accelerated nursing program in central New York allows those with a bachelor’s degree to complete a nursing degree in just 16 months.
New roles will be created to address rising needs in health care.
While more nursing jobs in existing roles will continue to grow, the ACA will also inspire the creation of new positions. Last fall, the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care released a white paper called the Nurse Role Exploration Project: The Affordable Care Act and New Nursing Roles, where they identified five new nursing roles that are needed to better meet the demand for healthcare services. These new roles emphasize the importance of patient care coordination and informatics:
- Care coordinator: encompasses population health management and tiered coordination
- Faculty team leader: moving interprofessional nursing education to community settings
- Informatics specialist: roles in design, data interpretation and tele-health applications
- Nurse/family cooperative facilitator: bringing virtual and in-person health care to people where they live and work
- Primary care partner: giving care in community health settings
While the healthcare priorities in California aren’t guaranteed to take hold in the rest of the country, the state’s thoughts on the scope of nursing practice do reflect growing needs in health care. The shift to an accountable care model makes a strong case for training nurses to manage different aspects of care in today’s new landscape. And nursing informatics, a specialty that combines nursing science and information technology to manage and communicate data, will only become more important as more people enter the system and new processes are needed to control the increased data flow across a wider team of professionals.
Whether your goal is to work at the bedside or behind the scenes, the need for bachelor’s-prepared nurses will never go away. To learn more about completing your nursing degree in just 16 months, request a consultation.