Without a doubt, COVID-19 has been the nearly singular focus for AAPACN and our members over the last few months. We have closely communicated with members to understand the needs and challenges of long-term and post-acute care professionals during this time and developed a lengthy roster of tools, tips, and alerts for you. AAPACN has also maintained a strong advocacy and policy presence at the federal level in support of our members and the nursing profession. You might be surprised to know that many federal policy issues continued to move forward and, in many cases, garnered more attention and action during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AAPACN actively advocates at the federal level for policy priorities important to our members. Even before COVID-19, these priorities included building and maintaining a strong LTPAC workforce; ensuring educational opportunities for LTPAC nurses; supporting nursing research initiatives; and advocating for common-sense regulatory compliance policies. Each of these issues is impacted and underscored by the challenges of COVID-19.
AAPACN has advocated for these priorities in partnership with other organizations such as AHCA/NCAL and AMDA as well as through several important coalitions and alliances. Our work with AHCA/NCAL has focused on skilled nursing payment and regulatory compliance issues. AAPACN participates in the AMDA-led Advancing Excellence in Long-Term Care Coalition (AELTCC). AELTCC recently developed a strong outline of steps necessary for safely reopening nursing homes. The outline is currently awaiting publication in a leading journal.
AAPACN also participates in broader coalition efforts including those focused on nursing education and workforce issues. The Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) is a group of 35 national organizations, joined together to address the immediate and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging America. EWA’s priorities include strengthening the eldercare workforce and protecting the role of immigrants in the eldercare workforce. Most recently, in April 2020, EWA sent a letter to Members of Congress outlining five immediate needs for the eldercare workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. These five critical needs included: workforce protection and testing; training the workforce and building the pipeline to meet escalating needs; expanding geriatrics experts; expanding access to telehealth; and expanding paid leave, childcare assistance, and tax relief.
AAPACN is also a member of the Nursing Community Coalition (NCC). NCC convenes 63 nursing organizations from education, practice, research, and regulation to support a robust and diverse nursing workforce. In April, AAPACN co-signed an NCC letter thanking Members of Congress for passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Among other more well-known provisions, the CARES Act reauthored Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs and authorized nurse practitioners (NPs) and certified clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) to certify home health care services. The letter further urged Congress to include other NCC priorities in any future COVID-19 relief legislation. Specifically, NCC identified on Congress to:
- Increase funding for Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs. NCC’s letter noted that Title VIII programs help to ensure the health and wellbeing of all communities, especially in rural and underserved areas and called for urgent investments in nursing education and the workforce, which are imperative. NCC’s letter specifically supported a U.S. Senate proposal of $15 billion in supplemental funding to be allocated for all Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs, including at least $5 billion specifically for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment and Scholarship programs.
- Create a dedicated funding stream to invest in nurses combatting COVID-19. These funds could be used to retrain nurses that have been laid off or have been working in other departments, support our nurses’ mental health needs for those responding to this pandemic, address infrastructure necessities, and provide for the safety of our current and future nursing workforce.
- Support public health initiatives through a short-term injection of funding to bolster the public health nursing workforce as well as development of a long-term solution in the investment of a national public health service pipeline of nurses and other healthcare professionals.
- Include nursing associations and professional associations, such as 501(c)6 organizations, in future small business aid packages. NCC specifically noted that many organizations have experienced cancelled events and conferences or greatly reduced attendance and dues at a time when these organizations are critical in setting standards of practice, establishing patient care guidelines, providing continuing education and professional development, and creating a forum for collective action and future planning.
- Invest in Nursing Research through support for the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR).
Finally, in continued support of our members in the COVID-19 crisis, AAPACN recently joined an initiative launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to urge the extension of liability protections to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic. AAPACN joined a long list of diverse national organizations and local Chambers of Commerce in urging Congress to provide such protections.
AAPACN’s advocacy agenda has long sought to bolster nursing education and workforce programs. The foundation created by this work has enabled us, along with many partners, to advance these initiatives during the COVID-19 crisis. We are honored to be the voice of skilled nursing professionals.