Experts debate ACA's influence on the nursing profession

A recent article from gathered information from nurses and experts on the Affordable Care Act, and what effect the healthcare reform law will have on the future of nursing. The answer? Uncertainty.

Although the ACA will improve access to care, it could mean increased workloads and stress for hospital nurses, said Judith Shindul-Rothschild, R.N,, Ph.D, associate professor at Boston College Connell School of Nursing in Massachusetts. To protect themselves, nurses must advocate for safe staffing ratios amid nursing hiring rates that remain flat and nurse-to-patient ratios that continue to increase, according to the article.

Amy L. Anderson, D.NP., R.N., CNE, associate professor of nursing at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, told that hospitals could cut staff and see a decrease in quality of care due to reduced reimbursements and non-payments from patients who can't afford co-payments and deductibles.

Jean E. Johnson, R.N., Ph.D, dean of the George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, District of Columbia, predicts nurses will move out of hospitals and into communities, with home care, transitional care and outpatient care becoming more important settings for patients and providers. As population health becomes a top priority for hospitals in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, non-traditional nursing's roles in community nursing is important because it stresses health education and disease prevention, rather than just treating the illness symptoms, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Nurses will see expanded roles as care coordinators in clinics, insurance companies, hospitals and ACOs, Johnson said. However nurses will compete against other staff for those positions, Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D., professor of healthcare management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said.

"Nurses have to be able to demonstrate they can do a better job at coordinating care [than people in other professions]… Part of the job of nurses is to remind people that what they do really matters." This means nurses with higher levels of education will be ideal candidates--with a BSN or higher, he said.

The call for nurses to earn advanced degrees comes in the wake of recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that 80 percent of all nurses hold bachelor's degrees by 2020 as part of a nationwide movement to improve patient care, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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