My pop, like many family caregivers, used his ingenuity to solve problems. This time, Pop was trying to figure out an easier way to help my mom out of her wheelchair and into bed. Pop was in his 90s, and anything would make it easier on him. So he rigged up a ramp from cinder blocks and particle board. If he could get her chair going at the right speed and right angle, he could run up the ramp and drop her in bed. No doubt Mom was a good sport and willing passenger.
One day, Nurse Sue was visiting my parents and saw the homemade ramp contraption. Horrified at the sight, she let me and Pop know that there was a medical device called the Hoyer Lift that would perform the same task safely and easily. But Nurse Sue couldn’t write a prescription for the lift. Instead, the doctor needed to make the call and write the order.
While Nurse Sue helped my parents in many ways, she was unable to do so in this instance because of outdated barriers that prohibit advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) from providing care to the full extent of their training.
APRNs are nurses who have additional training in a specific area, such as primary care. These highly qualified health practitioners should be able to provide primary care, utilizing the full extent of their education and training. In many states, however, they must work in formal collaboration with a doctor; in others, they have little authority at all.
Fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones
Nurses are the center point of care and do remarkable things for the people they serve, including family caregivers. Allowing APRNs to practice to the full extent of their training would mean:
- Less travel to a doctor’s office for a family caregiver and the loved one; instead an APRN could write certain prescriptions at a patient’s home.
- More access to primary medical care, especially in an area with a shortage of health care workers.
Right now, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their training. In the remaining states, AARP is fighting for changes to allow advanced practice registered nurses to serve as the primary or acute care provider of record. This means nurses would be able to use their full education and training. For my family, Nurse Sue would have been able to get my parents the Hoyer Lift they needed, quicker and easier.
So far this year, three states have expanded a nurse's authority to heal:
Allowing nurses to practice to the full extent of their training is the next innovation in providing care. Several weeks ago, I s poke about this important issue with other prominent leaders in health care, nursing and business. They agreed: The time for change is now. We have a real possibility here to put people first — and help family caregivers and their loved ones.
If you are a family caregiver, you’re not alone.