Teri Mills and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR-D)

In the fight to protect healthcare, nurses are leading

The Affordable Care Act is the most important healthcare issue we face today. Nurses understand that we should not be repealing and replacing this bill. What we should be doing is repairing what is not working. That’s why nurses are leading the fight to protect this legislation that has been so instrumental in providing affordable, accessible, quality health care to thousands.

The nursing profession adheres to a non-negotiable Code of Ethics. And if you think Congress is tough, believe me you do not want to mess with a group of nurses. Our pledge is to promote health, prevent illness, restore health, and alleviate suffering. This is NOT up for discussion.

Nurses stand by our patients and their families, no matter what their health condition or financial circumstances might be. We will continue to fight to make sure that Medicaid funding is protected, pre-existing conditions are covered and every one receives the care that they need and deserve. It is important to have health care, NOT sick care.

Nurses are well aware of how costly chronic conditions are and that many are preventable. We need an enhanced focus on wellness and disease prevention. And who better to lead this effort than our trusted, knowledgeable nurses! One of the best ways to do that is to pass the National Nurse Act. This legislation allows us to use our existing resources to avoid unnecessary waste. The beauty of this bill is that it designates an existing and already funded position, the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, as the National Nurse for Public Health.

Now more than ever, nurses must continue to be proactive in the fight against illness and disease. By engaging our nation’s 3.3 million nurses in health promotion and disease prevention, the National Nurse for Public Health will fulfill a critical role in improving our nation’s health.

I‘d also like to address the Title 8 Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017. Teaching nursing in Oregon has been the love of my life- well at least one of them. In my 40 years as a nurse educator, I have seen all too often the struggles nursing students face when they are working and going to school at the same time. Nursing coursework is demanding and clinical experiences require immense stamina and time. Yet, students fear taking on debt via student loans and this is understandable considering the high repayment interest rates.

Schools of nursing across our state are struggling too in filling faculty positions to teach the next generation of nurses. Several nursing programs around the state, including those in Portland, have already been forced to decrease enrollment due to lack of faculty. These are not just nursing problems. Funding nursing education is critically important to assuring we maintain an adequate nursing workforce to provide Oregon patients and families the quality and timely care they need and deserve. For more than 50 years, Title VIII programs have been instrumental in supporting the pipeline of registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nursing faculty, as well as supporting academic institutions. The Title 8 Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act is a must pass for the 115th Congress.

Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE is a nurse educator and a long-time member of the Oregon Nurses Association