Nurses Rally: Warn Lawmakers Of Healthcare Crisis

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By Lisa Blackwell

Nurses rallied in Montgomery today asking lawmakers to head off a statewide healthcare crisis.

Hundreds of nurses and nursing students filled the steps of the statehouse urging lawmakers to pass much needed legislation.

Nurses say one of the biggest problems Alabamians face is access to care.

They say not enough educators, a shortage of nurses and doctors is putting a strain on the healthcare system.

They say implementation of the affordable healthcare act will increase the burden.

Nurses say they are prepared to manage the crisis, if they can get help from lawmakers.

Nurses made quite a bit of noise at the statehouse with the help of the Alabama State Marching band. They say they’ll do whatever it takes to get lawmakers attention. They’re asking legislators to pass a bill that would increase the number of teaching scholarships available. They say last year more than 3500 nursing students were turned away because there were not enough seats in the class.

Dr. Joyce Varner, President, Alabama Nurses Association, says, “We have a crisis here so we need to get these people in nursing school, we need to have good qualified faculty and we need to get them out where we can help with this because when 2014 comes and our Medicaid rolls go from 900,000 and increase by another 500,000 what are we going to do.”

Representative April Weaver who is a nurse and sponsor of HB 83, a bill to increase the number of scholarships, says she thinks it will pass.

“We really have a huge issue with the nursing shortage that is coming upon us in Alabama and it’s so important that we address this now before we actually have a healthcare crisis,” said Weaver.

But nurses say there’s more to solving the problem than just increasing their numbers. They say many counties in Alabama have almost no primary care providers. They say nurse practitioners are trained to step in and fill that role, but they need lawmakers help to remove the restrictions.

Ami Goodnough, a nurse, says, “Currently in this state we need to be under a doctor to prescribe, the advance practice nurse cannot work independently and in other states the advanced practice nurse can have a clinic and write prescriptions independently, especially in palative care a new and upcoming need as the baby boomers continue to age and how can you write prescriptions for pain management and narcotics for the elderly when you don’t have prescriptive authority.”

Governor Robert Bentley attended the rally and told the crowd he wants to create an Alabama Health Alliance that would bring all the medical associations, including nurses, together and get them working toward common goals. Bentley admits there are barriers that need to be broken.

“The nurses and nurse practitioners and the physicians assistants which are probably not represented here today they play a vital role in our healthcare system and we all work together and that’s what we need to do we shouldn’t have these turf battles and turf wars we all need to come together in a common goal to help our patients,” said Bentley.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia allow nurses to have independent practices.

Forty eight states allow Nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances. The only ones who don’t are Florida and Alabama.

Alabama has over 81 thousand nurses and around 2000 certified nurse practitioners.

They say in five years the number of people over the age of 85 is expected to double.

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