Senators Merkley, Johanns, Mikulski and Snowe Launch Senate Nursing Caucus to Advance Role of Nurses in Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), announced the creation of the Senate Nursing Caucus to strengthen the nursing profession and advance the goals of the nursing community.  Members of the Senate Nursing Caucus will come together to discuss issues affecting the nursing community and explore ways to enhance the role nurses play in the delivery of high-quality health care.

There are over 3 million registered nurses in the United States, making up the largest health care workforce in the country.  The Senate Nursing Caucus will provide a forum to address issues such as the nursing shortage, burdensome tuition debt for nursing education, and patient safety issues.  It will also serve as a forum for the nursing community to present their ideas and share their concerns about issues affecting their profession.

“Nurses are invaluable to the success of our health care system and, most of all, to the patients that depend on them,” said Merkley.  “My wife Mary has spent years working as a nurse and not a day went by that I didn’t see what an important a role she played in her patients’ lives.  I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in the Senate Nursing Caucus to address critical problems like the nationwide nursing shortage and working to make sure our nurses are in a position to deliver the best quality care possible.”

“Though much attention in the health care debate has been focused on issues like coverage and cost, we must be mindful of the importance of the people who provide our care. Nurses make a difference in peoples’ lives every day. I am pleased to serve on the Nursing Caucus to represent states like Nebraska, which have rural areas hit especially hard by devastating nursing shortages. I look forward to the opportunity to address these and other challenges for our nurses, whose abilities and commitment are so important to both doctors and patients.”

“Too often, America’s nurses are overworked, underpaid and undervalued,” said Mikulski. “We need to provide them with the education and the resources they need to do their jobs. We need to make it more affordable and we need to provide opportunities for advancement, so nurses can move up instead of moving on. It’s essential for our hospitals and it’s essential for our patients. This is critical when the nursing shortage is expected to grow to 260,000 more nurses needed by the year 2023.  In the Senate Nursing Caucus, we will fight to make nursing a priority in the federal law book and the federal checkbook.”

“Representing the nation’s largest workforce in the health care industry, nurses are a critical component in the American health care system, providing quality care to millions of patients each and every day,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care legislation.  “Whether it is addressing the nursing shortage or bolstering training programs for the profession, the Senate Nursing Caucus is committed to advancing an agenda that will strengthen and improve programs for nurses to further enhance their role in this vital industry.”

“As a nurse leader, I know I speak for colleagues at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Nurses Association, and others in expressing gratitude to Senators Merkley, Snowe, Mikulski and Johanns for their leadership in creating the Senate Nursing Caucus,” said Michael R. Bleich, Dean of the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing.  “As we reform our health care system to provide access to more Americans, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses are a crucial part of the solution.  We need to educate more nurses and fix the structural issues that prevent nurses from functioning to the fullest scope of their license and capability. The caucus will play an important role in helping us meet Americans’ needs.”

“In high school, I was inspired to pursue a career in nursing by my school nurse,” said Bridgid Seqoniw Neptune, a nursing student in her junior year at University of Southern Maine, College of Nursing and Health Professions.  “For me a baccalaureate degree in nursing is a key to self actualization and hopefully better healthcare for others.  Funding for future nurses and continuing education is critical to our success in making all of our communities healthier, and I am confident that the Senate Nursing Caucus will play a vital role in achieving this goal.”