During National Nurses Week, Merkley Stands Up for Nurses With Bipartisan Legislative Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This National Nurses Week, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley is standing with nurses in Oregon and across America by introducing bipartisan legislation to support nurses and strengthen the nursing profession.

Merkley on Thursday introduced the National Nurse Act of 2017 and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017, both with bipartisan support. The National Nurse Act is co-led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act is co-led by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Merkley, whose wife works in Oregon as a registered nurse, also introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), officially honoring May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” Merkley said. “Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

The National Nurse Act of 2017

The bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2017 would elevate the role of nurses in America’s public health by designating a National Nurse for Public Health.

The National Nurse position would be created by transforming and elevating an existing position within the U.S. Public Health Service, the Chief Nurse Officer. Similarly to the Surgeon General, the National Nurse for Public Health would help raise awareness among the American public about disease prevention and healthy living. The position would provide leadership by a publicly visible nurse who would collaborate with other health care leaders to address health disparities and set goals for improved public health.

Nurses represent the largest single component of the health care profession with more than 3.3 million registered nurses. With a National Nurse for Public Health providing a uniting voice and national leadership, American nurses’ power to transform their patients’ lives and to improve public health outcomes would be even greater.

Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and obesity pose the single greatest threat to the health of Americans and a serious threat to our nation’s economy. Nurses provide key services for the prevention and management of these conditions. The National Nurse for Public Health will promote prevention; help improve outcomes; and guide national, state and local efforts in addressing the nation’s health.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 would reauthorize, update and improve programs that help to grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

With many nurses retiring and Baby Boomers projected to increase the demand for medical care in the coming years, the nursing workforce in the United States is at a critical juncture. To help meet these increasing needs, the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 would reauthorize and update the Nursing Workforce Development Programs under Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act, which include programs that support and advance nursing education, practice, recruitment and retention.

Title VIII programs are designed to address specific challenges in meeting our nation’s nursing workforce demands. These programs support and advance nursing education, practice, recruitment, and retention so that we have a nursing workforce prepared to meet Americans’ health care needs now and in the future, including in rural and medically underserved communities, which can face unique challenges in providing quality and timely care to the individuals living in these communities.

Title VIII includes a broad range of programs that support nursing education from entry-level preparation through graduate study, including grants, loans and scholarships to support nurses-in-training, nurse educators and educational institutions that train nurses. Between 2006 and 2013 alone, Title VIII supported more than 520,000 nurses and nursing students, as well as numerous academic nursing institutions and healthcare facilities.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 would reauthorize the Title VIII nursing workforce programs through Fiscal Year 2022, including programs specifically designed to support training and educating individuals to provide care for seniors. This bipartisan bill also updates the Title VIII programs to ensure that they reflect the current nursing workforce needs and opportunities by:

  • Adding nurse-managed health clinics as entities eligible to receive Title VIII funding;
  • Updating the Title VIII programs to reflect the role of clinical nurse specialists and such programs as part of advanced education nursing; and
  • Streamlining and modernizing the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention funding opportunities.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 is supported by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing, and 51 other national nursing organizations.