Nurses and the Public Say It Is Time for Change

Teri A. Mills, MS, RN, ANP, CNE; Kindra T. Scanlon; Susan L. Sullivan, RN, PHN, MSN


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2008;8(3) 

In This Article

A Time for Change

In this election cycle, candidates, nurses, and voters are calling for change in a healthcare system that is mired in problems. A collaborative system designed to focus the public on prevention and management of disease is a necessary and critical element for addressing the public health crisis. Nurses are uniting behind a grassroots healthcare initiative that calls for creation of an Office of the National Nurse to emphasize preventive care. The National Nurse will raise awareness, provide education, improve health literacy, curb costs, help to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, and raise the bar nationwide for a higher quality of care (Figure).

The Nurses Have Spoken.
Published with permission of Kindra T. Scanlon

Healthcare is not accessible or affordable for many of our citizens. The result is that millions of US citizens ignore symptoms and wait until their illness reaches an expensive critical mass before they visit a medical center. This may be true even if they have the resources to see a healthcare provider, because they fear diagnosis or cannot pay deductibles.

Healthcare costs are outpacing those of previous decades, and approximately 47 million Americans do not have health insurance. In 2006, we spent more than 3 times what we spent in 1990 on healthcare. Costs for employer-sponsored health insurance plans are rising as well, by as much as 87%.[1] With inflation, growing federal deficits, economic slowdown, and decreasing wages, workers simply can no longer afford to get sick. Seniors living on modest Social Security income face an even more daunting plight; they frequently must choose between paying their heat or grocery bills and purchasing vital medications.

Eighteen countries do better than the United States in reducing preventable deaths.[2] Americans want results. With 7 out of 10 Americans dying each year of a preventable chronic disease, it is imperative that we address poor health literacy and access to accurate information; both of these increase risk factors associated with chronic disease.[3] A recent research study found that more than 90 million people in the United States struggle with health literacy.[4] Recommendations for health professionals include encouraging a culture of easy-to-understand medical care. Who better than the nurse to provide instructions in language that healthcare consumers can understand?

In addition, in the past 2 decades, obesity has been rising dramatically in the United States. In a 2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 states saw at least a 25% rise in obesity rates.[5] Obesity is a known risk factor for 45 conditions, including heart disease, the leading killer in the United States,[6] yet only 31% of Americans can name the 5 most prominent symptoms of heart disease.[7]


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