The “Improving Veterans Access to Care Act of 2015” was recently introduced by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sam Graves (R-MO). Bill H.R. 1247 will benefit both Veterans and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) working in the health care department of Veterans Affairs by allowing “full practice authority to APRNs.” This would allow APRNs from any state to use the full scope of their training and education without the restrictive limitations that have formerly been in place.
APRNs must have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing but many have gone on to complete the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in one of the four roles:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Certified Nurse-midwife (CNM)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
Currently in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), if an APRN is licensed in a restrictive state that doesn’t allow them to practice to the full extent of their capabilities, they must abide by these restrictions.
These restrictions, coupled with the shortage of physicians within the VHA, have caused extreme delays for veterans seeking medical care. The new bill will remove these barriers and allow APRNs to use their full practice authority.
American Nurses Association (ANA) President, Pamela Cipriano, believes that the new legislation will have a positive impact for veterans across the country by increasing staff to provide primary care and reduce current wait times for appointments.
The legislation also coincides with guidance from the Institute of Medicine, which recommends advanced education and practice authority for nurses. It is also consistent with current healthcare models within the U.S. Armed Forces, Public Health Service and Indian Health Service, in which veterans can access medical care.
The American Associations of Colleges of Nursing, American Nurses Association and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners are just a few of the groups that are lobbying Congress to pass this vital legislation.