AANP 2018 Health Policy Conference Recap
by Ronda Marie Thompson
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) 2018 Health Policy Conference held February 4-6, 2018 in Washington, DC, was attended by over 400 nurse practitioners (NPs) from across the United States.
As a first-time attendee, the conference was an exciting, educating, and energizing three days culminating with legislative visits on Capitol Hill. The conference focused on ways to have NP voices heard at the local, state, and national levels on health care policy. The AANP Political Action Committee (PAC) sponsored raffle raised over $16,000 for lobbying and supporting candidates in 2018 mid-term elections.
Watching the PAC fund grow was exciting. More exciting were the speakers who were mostly NPs by education, certification, licensure, and accreditation.
Gale Adcock, a family practice NP in North Carolina, balances a primary practice and also serves as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. She is one of only a handful of NPs or nurses holding a legislative office at the state or federal level. She and several other speakers discussed the importance of grassroots involvement, advocacy, and lobbying to develop relationships with legislators; thus, creating trusted presence with our legislative representatives.
Excitement was produced by the announcement of newly passed full practice authority for NPs in the territory of Guam. Disappointment was expressed by NPs practicing in states with restricted practice authority. The involvement of more NPs running for political office to promote nursing’s role in high-quality, cost-effective health care for a healthier America was a common theme throughout the conference.
Political analysts Alex Costellanos (ABC news) and Mark Shields (PBS NewsHour) provided entertainment, excitement, and encouragement to attendees. They jointly encouraged getting involved in campaigns from school board to national office; writing articles for local newspapers, especially human interest stories related to health care and NP role; offering solutions and not just asking questions of legislators and those in power; and they strongly encouraged NPs to not stop reaching out to legislators of both political parties to help form coalitions. Coalitions begin with involvement and dialogue and can create desired changes.
Excitement was supported by learning about the legislative process from influencing legislation to drafting a bill through its introduction by sponsors and co-sponsors, hearings, and, if lucky, a vote. The stakes are high as only about 3% of bills introduced pass each legislative session.
The need for the APRN Nursing Licensure Compact was emphasized during discussion of national disasters from natural (flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires) to manmade (shootings) disasters. Opportunities for NP leadership increase during disasters. The opioid epidemic as a health problem was recognized and discussed by U.S. Surgeon General, NP, and pharmacist panel, and other speakers.
The panel reminded NPs that in 2016, 46% of the 42,249 drug overdose deaths in the United States were related to prescribed opioids. AANP offers certified training for NPs to prescribe suboxone and treat addiction.
A fireside chat between U. S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, and Captain Annette Debisette, adult practice NP and member of the U.S. Public Health Service, produced conversations about the opioid epidemic, the link between health and the economy, and the link between health and national security.
Attendees were encouraged to be public health advocates improving and promoting healthy communities and to break out of our silos to find nontraditional partners creating better health through better partnerships. Dr. Adams encouraged attendees to become engaged in our communities as leaders and advocates by recognizing and actively seeking solutions to health problems. He challenged all to influence change with one-to-one community involvement, recognizing that with privilege and respect as NPs comes responsibility.
Educated and energized attendees walked to Capitol Hill and scheduled congressional visits with our senators and representatives.
During these meetings, bills improving Medicare patient access to home health services (S.445/H.R. 1825) and diabetic shoes (H.R.1617) through authorizing NPs to certify patient eligibility for Medicare home health services and certify a patient’s need for diabetic shoes were discussed with legislative aides.
Shared stories of patients negatively impacted by current Medicare rules were met with support. Brevity, clarity, and humanization were important in discussing issues at each legislative office as each visit was scheduled for 10-15 minutes.
After attending the conference, I am better educated on many health policies and health issues impacting the United States. I am more excited and energized to become a catalyst for positive change through grassroots advocacy or a run for legislative office.
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” — John F. Kennedy.
Are you that one person?
Ronda Marie Thompson, MSN, ANP-BC, GNP-BC
Plan your trip to the nation’s capital during GAPNA’s Annual Conference, September 26-29, 2018 by checking out all the things to do, places to eat, and ways to have fun.
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