Remarks to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice

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U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
HRSA Press Office: (301) 443-3376


by HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield

January 31, 2013
Washington, D.C.

Let me begin by welcoming the (16) new members of the Advisory Council and adding that I – and the Department – highly value your perspectives.  And to the continuing members, thank you for your service to date and your willingness to continue serving.

As HRSA administers the laws and programs under our authority, we look to you for advice.  Your reports and recommendations have national reach and weight.

I know that you all have highly visible and important “day jobs,” and that the activities of attending meetings, taking phone calls, planning and working on reports require a great deal of time, thought, and effort.  I also know that Secretary Sebelius greatly appreciates your contributions, as we all do at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

In your deliberations, please don’t hesitate to give us the full benefit of your views.  As you know, at HRSA and the Division of Nursing we have many experts in issues that impact the health professions.  But we clearly don’t have all the answers, and we may not have your particular perspective and experience.  And we need that to develop the best responses to the many challenges we face.

So we rely on your valuable counsel.  Please feel free to think outside the box, reshape the box, or devise different strategies within the box.  We’re all looking to get the best results from the resources at hand.

ACA and Nurses

And as you talk and write and work, I ask you to keep foremost in your mind the historic nature of this era in U.S. health care.  Certainly, in the future, the Affordable Care Act will be mentioned alongside Social Security and Medicare in its impact on improving the health and well-being of the American people.

At HRSA and throughout HHS, we are working diligently to align our traditional programs with the many features of the ACA.  All of us are aware that we play key roles in this historic advance.  We know that to be here now is to be on the crest of a great wave of positive change.

And surely that knowledge, that awareness of this historic era, should guide and orient your deliberations on the Advisory Council.

Already the Affordable Care Act has had a direct impact on nurses by expanding investments in primary and preventive care programs in which we play a vital role.  The law’s emphasis on keeping people healthy, preventing illness and managing chronic conditions opens up new opportunities and new responsibilities for nurses. 

We see every day that many of the health problems presented by desperately ill patients could be prevented, or at least mitigated, through earlier investments in disease prevention activities like screenings, health and wellness promotion, and patient education.  And that – for the first time in our country – is where the Affordable Care Act takes us.  When people talk prevention, they’re talking about nurses’ knowledge and skills.

The significant ACA investments in HRSA’s Community Health Center program and the National Health Service Corps mean that millions more Americans are accessing high-quality, primary and preventive care.  It also means jobs and new opportunities for thousands of nurses, from RNs to nurse practitioners to certified midwives.

In addition, greater support in the ACA for school-based health centers gives children – and very importantly, disadvantaged children – immediate access to care before major health problems take root.  Nurses, of course, are the main providers of school-based care.

The Affordable Care Act also funded the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation Program to improve maternal and child health.  Under this program – which HRSA administers – nurses, social workers and others visit pregnant women and young children in high-risk communities.  There they provide early counseling and intervention services based on models that are known to improve health outcomes.

Furthermore, the law promotes more interprofessional education and puts greater emphasis on coordinating care, which is a role nurses often play.  Both make perfect sense, and they’re both key strategies to improve care quality.  We can provide a far more meaningful and practical education for students – no matter what health profession they’re studying – by giving them the opportunity to study and work together.

And I should note here that HRSA’s efforts to promote interprofessional education were aided greatly by a new “all-advisory committee” that includes NACNEP.  Over the past few years, NACNEP members have met annually with their counterparts in three other HRSA advisory councils to deliberate on cross-cutting health workforce issues.  The advice that emerged from those meetings definitely helped us shape our own activities to promote interprofessional education and collaborative practice.  So we’re grateful to NACNEP members for that work, along with their colleagues in the other advisory councils. 
[NOTE: The other Advisory Councils deal with: Graduate Medical Education; Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry; and Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages].

Finally, the ACA boosts funding for several nurse education programs that HRSA administers.  We have committed nearly $1.1 billion over the last four years to educate new nurses, improve the education of today’s nurses, and place nurses where they’re needed most.

Nurses and the Health Insurance Marketplace

That’s a brief summary of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on nurses and nursing.  Of course, the law is already making a big difference in the lives of Americans beyond us nurses.

Since President Obama signed the law in March of 2010, millions of seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs and are taking advantage of free annual wellness visits.  Millions more Americans now have access to preventive services with no co-pay.  And children under the age of 26 can now be covered on their parents’ insurance plans. 

But that’s just the beginning.  Starting in October of this year, tens of millions of uninsured Americans will be able to find health insurance that meets their needs and fits the way they live at the new Health Insurance Marketplace.  The Marketplace will be accessible online at  And that site is where all of you – and all Americans – should go to get information on how the Marketplace will work, what its benefits will be, and its key deadlines.

The Marketplace will give Americans who are uninsured or who buy their own coverage a whole new way to shop for insurance.  But that “whole new way of shopping” for insurance is causing confusion and apprehension among its intended beneficiaries – people who often have little idea of how the system will work and how they’ll access it.

Recent surveys confirm that nurses and physicians top the lists of people that patients trust most when it comes to seeking information on health care and health insurance.  So as we move toward enrolling people for coverage through the Marketplace – which, let me say again, begins this October – we nurses need to be ready with full and accurate information for the patients, friends and family members who ask for our help.  

Again, it’s all available at  There, patients can:

  1. learn the basics about health insurance;
  2. get accurate information on different plans; and
  3. make apples-to-apples comparison of private insurance plans.

There they’ll also be able to learn if they qualify for a free or low-cost plan or a new kind of tax credit that lowers their monthly premiums right away.

Time is tight and the work is great.  Getting America fully covered begins now, and it starts with all of us.  So, in closing, I ask you to keep the historic impact of these developments in mind as your push forward with the important work of this valuable Advisory Council.

Thank you. 

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2016