The Supreme Court decision in King v Burwell is good news for so many, it’s hard to know where to begin. Regardless of political persuasion, it is hard to deny that providing increased access to health care is a good thing. More American lives will be saved, the nation’s overall health will improve and care costs will be contained. And, selfishly, this an incredibly exciting time for nurses.
King v. Burwell means that 16.4 million newly insured Americans will keep their health insurance. In addition, the Institute of Medicine points toward a looming shortage of physicians as perhaps one-third of current MDs retire over the next 10 years.
It is nurses who will step in to provide more and more of that care.
The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing cannot hope to build all of the nurses America will need, but we accept a leading role in bridging the chasm.
Our new Master’s Entry into Nursing curriculum was part of our anticipation of and initial response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We’ve just enrolled our initial class of bright, driven students who will receive the education and tools to become the advanced bedside nurses, hospital leaders, faculty, and researchers we need now. They are the roots from which a new type of nursing will grow.
The ACA opens the door for but also demands models of care that allow nurses to practice to the top of their licenses and promote health along the continuum of life. The new nurse will not care for Americans only when they become seriously ill or disabled but help prevent many, many Americans from ever becoming so.
The law forces the lens to focus on the needs of individuals, families, and communities–not on health care providers. It’s a change we have been awaiting for years. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Change very rarely is. Achieving health reform requires fundamental alterations to how care is planned, delivered, and paid for. It can be a painful process.
But reverting back to the way it was in American health care before the ACA would have been worse and been unnecessarily cruel to those who were so recently given the tools—and yes, the responsibility—to care for their own and their families’ health. After understandable concern at its inception, polls have shown a steady acceptance of the ACA among Americans.
The law isn’t perfect, nor shall any health care system ever be. That’s not what matters here. Nor does it matter whose side “won.” This isn’t a time for gotchas. The ACA was the right path, and now it has been proven just.
Let’s get back to putting the patient first. Let’s get back to nursing.
Patricia M. Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN
Dean & Professor
Johns Hopkins School of Nursing