Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) today expressed its support of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decision to grant full practice authority to three roles of its advanced practice registered nurses (APRN): Certified Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Certified Nurse Midwives.
"This decision is a significant step forward in providing clinician support for a burdened VA, and validates the important role of nurses in the VA system of care," said Associate Executive Director of Medical Services Lana McKenzie. McKenzie, a registered nurse who practiced in the VA healthcare system for ten years before joining Paralyzed Veterans, is the organization’s lead advocate for nurses and clinicians within VA Spinal Cord Injury and disease (SCI/D) units. "By amending the regulations to permit APRNs to practice, more clinicians are available to focus on providing quality care to our veterans in a more efficient environment. As we support VA clinicians, we will see less turnover, burnout and low morale among VA nurses, who are continuously trying to fill in these gaps. This will hopefully bring relief to appointment bottlenecks, which cause longer wait times."
In September, Paralyzed Veterans brought the burden on nurses to the forefront by penning an op-ed (read op-ed), which was published by the DC-based Congressional news publication, The Hill. The piece urged Congress to increase VA funding to hire 1000 more nurses in SCI/D centers as a critical element to increasing access to care for catastrophically injured veterans, stating "Congress must fund the 1000-additional-nurses requirement so that paralyzed veterans who have no private sector alternative get full and timely access to adequate VA specialized services they need to live and stay healthy."
With a workforce of approximately 93,500 nurses (July 2016 data), VA is the nation’s largest employer of nurses. Within its nursing corps, there are approximately 5,769 APRNs who will now be able to fully provide care to veteran patients. "Today’s announcement allows APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and certification and, most importantly, it is aimed at making more efficient use of VA staff capabilities so there are more clinicians to serve veteran patients. Paralyzed Veterans members are those patients, so we commend VA for this movement," concluded McKenzie.