Letters to the Editor

Nurses play more-significant role in 21st century

The Affordable Care Act has just passed another major deadline with open enrollment ending Feb. 15. In its first year alone, 8 million Americans enrolled for coverage under the ACA. As the healthcare industry adjusts to meet the country’s medical service needs, the demand for qualified nurses is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

One of the largest components of the ACA is the expansion of primary care. While access to care has expanded, the number of available primary-care providers hasn’t increased to meet the demand.

When compounded with the nation’s aging baby-boomer population, which includes 76.4 million Americans who will require additional care in their senior years, the healthcare landscape is facing an unprecedented shortage of healthcare professionals.

Hospitals and care facilities in Miami, and across the country, are working diligently to ensure healthcare demands are met. Despite efforts to overcome this challenge, the influx of newly insured patients has created a disparity in the physician-to-patient ratio throughout the nation, resulting in a shortage of primary-care physicians.

This has left an estimated 66 million Americans facing the sobering reality of limited access to primary care.

Now more than ever, it will be essential for healthcare employers to leverage existing physicians with the support of advanced-practice nurses. As a result, these nurses will be expected to meet higher standards of accountability serving as primary-care providers.

Advanced-practice nurses have an opportunity to close the deficit in the delivery of primary, preventive and chronic care. Legislators and nursing industry advocates are working to remove barriers that have traditionally been in place in health care organizations preventing nurses from providing services they are qualified to provide, but are restricted to physicians.

It is critical that nurses are empowered and have the necessary skills and training to meet new demands of the profession. In an increasingly impacted healthcare landscape, nurses may find themselves working in extremely stressful management roles, working as part of short-staffed units where teamwork, critical thinking and communication will be essential to meet the needs of patients.

Recognizing the expanding role of the 21st-century nurse, universities must offer a wider range of curriculum and degree programs that address these recent challenges so that graduates are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in today’s healthcare market.

The University of Phoenix is united with state of Florida, university and private partners to empower current and prospective nurses through providing curriculum that prepares them to make independent and collaborative decisions in the delivery of primary care across the life span in today’s dynamic healthcare environment.

Tamara Rozhon, executive dean,

University of Phoenix,

College of Health Science and Nursing,