The pandemic has led state and federal officials to change many policies to meet the demand for patient care. One frequently adopted change was to loosen restrictions on how and where Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) could work. This was done to increase the medical manpower available to fight the disease.
It has worked well, and should be made permanent once the crisis is over.
The pandemic dramatically affected the ability of non-COVID-19 patients to get the health care they need. Some medical facilities postponed preventive care, diagnostics, cancer treatments, immunizations, and surgery to make sure they would have enough capacity and medical supplies to treat victims of the pandemic.
Moreover, some non-COVID-19 patients delayed seeking care for fear of catching the disease from entering medical facilities. As a result, many chronic conditions have not been managed properly — a situation which only increases the likelihood of severe COVID-19 illness.
Health care providers are suffering as well. The loss of non-COVID-19 patients has left some practices and facilities teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Economic recovery in the health sector will require a nimble, flexible and cost-saving response — one that involves continued use of technology and telehealth services, and other patient- and provider-friendly changes such as freeing APRNs from limited or restrictive practice.
APRNs boast a great record: success in chronic disease management and a willingness to provide access for vulnerable and economically disadvantaged populations. Allowing them to do more within the health system would streamline care delivery, increase efficiency, and control costs.
Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial minorities and those with lower socioeconomic status, a renewed effort to address vulnerabilities will require community partnerships and local engagement — something APRNs have demonstrated they are willing and able to do.
Recognizing the global challenges created by COVID-19, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania recently convened prominent think tank executives and policy experts from 75 countries to develop solutions to the unprecedented issues facing communities and countries as a result of the pandemic.
At three Global Town Hall Meetings, five separate working groups presented their recommendations. One key recommendation from the “Addressing the Public Health Crisis” workgroup was to increase capacity for care by removing barriers to Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) around the world.
Decades of development in medicine and technology have expanded the professional responsibilities of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Capturing these advancements and enhanced understanding of medical and health science has required greater accountability and broadened the training and education of health professionals.
Improving collaborative education and training, eliminating archaic healthcare cultures, and re-examining long-held mores surrounding professional roles and task allocation will not only bolster advancements in science and care delivery but capture the vision of a modernized system of health — one that is streamlined, efficient, financially viable, and accessible.
Global leaders should leverage the use of APNs in health care to improve their health systems and expand the reach of health-care providers around the world. This approach will not only improve the response to the next pandemic; it will improve the everyday health of people everywhere.
• Amy Anderson, DNP, RN, CNE is an assistant professor in the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Texas Christian University, an assistant professor at the TCU/ UNTHSC School of Medicine, and a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation.