June 2023 President's Letter

Greetings SPN Members!

The SPN Pediatric Excellence Model prioritizes advocacy, defined as acting or speaking on behalf of and in support of children and families, as one of the core concepts in the Values domain. While nurses instinctively advocate for patients and families in their workplace, many may not be as engaged in advocacy efforts in their community or with state and federal legislation to advance issues impacting children, families, and the nursing profession.

Nurses must leverage our position as the most trusted profession by educating others and influencing decisions impacting the healthcare system. Nurses must advocate for the rights, health and safety of patients, be champions for social justice in healthcare, secure funding for programs to address gaps in the healthcare system and contribute to solutions that improve access to care for children. We must also work to advocate for our profession through promotion of safe staffing, workplace safety and funding for nursing education and research.

There are three bills recently introduced to the 118th Congress that impact the pediatric mental health crisis, workplace violence and improving access to care for children. These are key pieces of legislation that require our attention.

Addressing the Pediatric Mental Health Crisis

Prior to COVID-19 the rate of pediatric mental health concerns had been on the rise. The Children’s Hospital Association reported 1 in 5 of children ages 3-17 years had a mental, emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Emergency department visits for mental health-related crises for children ages 5-11 increased by 24%; of those ages, 12-17 increased 31% during March-October 2020 as compared to data from 2019. According to the American Psychological Association, twenty million young people in the US currently have a mental health disorder; however, less than half of children who need services receive appropriate help from mental health professionals.

On March 30, 2023 Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Helping Kids Cope Act (H.R. 2412) to address the pediatric mental health emergency. This bill will establish grant programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide pediatric mental health services at children’s hospitals and through community-based providers to improve children’s access to care. This bill aims to improve access to community-based services and support, support training to enhance the pediatric mental health workforce and to invest in critical pediatric mental health infrastructure.

Reducing Workplace Violence

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018. Hospital safety directors report aggression against staff escalated as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified in 2020.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Se. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 2663 / S. 1176) in April. This bill seeks to protect comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan to protect healthcare workers, social service workers, and other personnel from workplace violence.

Improving Access to Care

The Improving Care and Access to Nursing (ICAN) Act (H.R. 2713) was introduced by Rep. Dave Joyce (D-OH), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Lauren  Underwood (D-IL), and Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA). The ICAN Act would remove administrative and practice barriers for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) allowing nurse practitioners, nurses anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists to care for their patients at the fullest extent of their education and training. APRNs are often the primary provider for those living in underserved communities and rural areas, and this would allow patients timely access to critically needed care.

Nursing Community Coalition

SPN is a member of the Nursing Community Coalition (NCC), a cross-section of education, practice, research, and regulation within the nursing profession representing registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, nurse leaders, students, faculty, and researchers in 63 member organizations. NCC serves as the collective voice of nursing through a unified voice on policy issues to promote wellness, advances research through scientific discovery, and provide timely access to care across the continuum. SPN supports many of NCC's advocacy efforts that address these key issues.

Call to Action           

In addition to the collective voice of nursing, it is imperative that individually, we also lend our voice to help influence legislation. Here are actions you can take:

  • Stay abreast on vital information and news impacting healthcare and nursing so you can react and respond to the changing needs of the healthcare system.
  • The American Nurses Association monitors federal and state legislation specific to nursing and provides updates and additional information on their website.
  • For those hospitals who are Children’s Hospital Association member hospitals, employees can create an account and sign up to receive legislative updates.
  • Contact your U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative to ask that they support these bills. Share what you have observed in your practice to provide additional context to support your stance.
  • Contact your state Senator or Representative for issues specific to your state.
  • Become familiar with SPN's health policy priorities as well as SPN's state advocacy resources.

Please take time to familiarize yourself with these bills, and consider actively engaging with your elected representatives to advocate for legislation that will have profound impact on key issues at the forefront of our profession.

Kathy Van Allen, MSN, RN, CPN
SPN President
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