Nurse Day at the Capitol 2019
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Posted by: Roy Muyinza
"Every day should bring a sense of urgency. Because each day makes an impact on someone's health." - Dr. Wakefield
Monday, Feb. 18, over 400 nurses came together at the Sheraton Austin to kick off 2019 Nurse Day at the Capitol. The first speaker, Dr. Mary Wakefield, brought home the influence of policy on nursing and how nurses can influence policy. Access to health care is often at the forefront of health discussions, including nurse policy. From getting legislators to expand access to Medicare and lift advanced practice nursing restrictions, nurses can use their knowledge to educate and advocate for patients.
Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, FAAN, speaks to Nurse Day at the Capitol participants on Monday.
Wakefield spoke to the importance of data in spurring policy change. Emphasizing the importance of access to healthcare, Wakefield shared the positive patient outcomes resulting from Medicaid expansion and the negative effect from rural hospital closures.
She closed by emphasizing and that nurses in clinical settings or community health settings can’t do much on their own.
“Nurses engaging in policy is a necessity,” Wakefield said. “Your making contact about health challenges people face and the potential solutions to those problems can make a difference. Own your voice. Own your expertise. And feel confident in sharing it.”
Following Wakefield, Dr. John Hellerstedt from Texas Department of State Health Services discussed the role the state agency plays in tracking mumps, improving maternal and infant health, and providing emergency response support, such as during Hurricane Harvey. Texas has a very large rural population, and one of the biggest challenges is the border region.
John Hellerstedt, M.D, speaks to Nurse Day at the Capitol participants on Monday.
“It’s a very dynamic area of the state. Pretty much any health outcome you might think of doesn’t fare as well in the border communities as it does in the rest of the state,” he said.
Maternal mortality and morbidity is also a large focus at the state level. After a report suggested the rate of maternal mortality had jumped in Texas, DSHS investigated the new electronic system that doctors used to report deaths and realized the numbers were about half that. However, state officials still wanted to do better and developed Texas AIM bundles to reduce deaths associated with pregnancy and delivery.
“The first thing we tackled was maternal hemorrhage,” Hellerstedt said. The AIM bundle supports team-based care, so that signs of excessive blood loss can be aggressively treated. DSHS is also working on opioid use in mothers, maternal hypertension including pre-eclampsia, and community initiatives to address maternal and child health after delivery.
In addition, Hellerstedt covered emerging diseases, vaccinations, newborn screening, tuberculosis and drug-resistant organisms. Across Texas, nurses address these broad health topics through prevention, treatment, reporting and educating.
Ultimately, the services DSHS and nurses provide rely on state funding. Securing funding means emphasizing the importance of public health to state legislators.
To that point, the final speaker of the evening was TNA’s Director of Government Affairs, Andrew Cates. Cates walked all the nurses through the progress already made this session in line with the Texas Nursing Legislative Agenda, and what work was still left to be done. In addition to meeting with legislators on Tuesday, Feb. 19, he encouraged nurses to talk to their legislator on their own, such as calling them to ask for support on an issue.
Andrew Cates, J.D., TNA Director of Government Affairs, speaks to Nurse Day at the Capitol participants on Monday.
Nurse Day at the Capitol participants speak to Cassandra Urrutia, Director of Constituent Services for Rep. Evelina Ortega, D-El Paso, about TNA's legislative agenda on Tuesday.
One big bill to watch out for this session is the APRN Full Practice Authority bill filed by Rep. Stephanie Klick. HB 1792 has 28 co-authors, nearly one-fifth of all Texas Representatives. For some legislators, Tuesday’s visits will be their first chance to learn more about nursing and nurse needs straight from the people affected.
By bringing nurses together in Austin, Nurse Day at the Capitol shows how nurses standing strong together can make a difference in the policy arena. And the work continues long after today as well.