Nurses and the Affordable Care Act: Opportunities and Options

A Discussion With Mary Wakefield, RN, PhD

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


February 17, 2011

In This Article

Your Stock Is Going Up. Are You Ready?

2010 was a good year for nursing. The spotlight on our profession has never been brighter, as nursing leaders, professional colleagues, and policymakers considered the value of nursing to a reformed healthcare delivery system.[1] This scrutiny, although painful at times, will ultimately lead to stronger and more vital roles for nurses in the complex and changing landscape of healthcare.

With change, history teaches us, comes opportunity. For decades, nurses have gradually been becoming more educated and forging new roles for themselves, but these efforts have been slow and have not prepared enough nurses for the challenges of the current and future healthcare system. The landmark legislation known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in 2010, has opened new doors to educational opportunities and career advancement for nurses. The ACA also presents new options for patients to choose wellness over illness, health over disease, and prevention over cure, under the guidance of a new cadre of primary care nurses.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator
Mary K. Wakefield, RN, PhD

Mary Wakefield, RN, PhD, Administrator of the Health Resources Services Administration, believes that the many provisions of the ACA aimed at advancing the roles and responsibilities of nurses in healthcare is a sign of the government's recognition of the value of the profession of nursing.[2] She has high hopes for the opportunities presented to nurses by the ACA, but to take advantage of these, nurses must be aware of them, understand them, and know how to access them. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Wakefield about the ACA in general, as well as what nurses really needed to know about the ACA in the coming months. She then provided some valuable tips for nurses who hoped to take part in and perhaps advance their careers in the new era of healthcare before us.


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