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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Healthcare Reform: ABC-TV's 'Prescription for America'

Published June 25, 2009 2:56 PM by Kathleen Bensing

Hopefully, many of you tuned into ABC last evening to view Prescription for America. Scheduled to be a 1-hour exchange of ideas about healthcare reform with President Obama and healthcare stakeholders, the meeting lasted 30 minutes longer, extending into ABC's Nightline, from 11:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.

If you did not get to see the program, I urge you to go to and watch the discussion. ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer facilitated the discussion.

I can hit some of the highlights here, but I think the questions asked by some of the 164 people chosen to meet with the president are best articulated by listening to the words of the patients/family members, nurses, doctors, medical students, healthcare policy makers and others who took part in the discussion.

As a nurse of 44 years, an educator for many years and one who was active politcally in my younger years, healthcare reform has been a campaign pledge of elected officals for most of my career.

Actually, I began practicing nursing right after Medicare had been enacted in 1965 and implemented in 1966. I mention Medicare only because President Obama cited Medicare and health insurance for children to the naysayers last night as examples of healthcare reforms that ran into great opposition at the time, but have benefitted many Americans.

My level of frustration ebbs and flows with how much we must make healthcare reform a No. 1 priority now -- even though our economy continues to sputter. Nurses must educate themselves about the issues.

I think my frustration with healthcare reform was amplified so well last night by the stories and the issues put forth by the questioners. Can we afford to meet everyone's needs?

For example, questioner Jane Sturm talked about her mother, Hazel Homer, 105. When Hazel was 100, her doctor told her she needed a pacemaker. The first arrhtythmia specialist said she was too old to have the $30,000 procedure. When another cardiac specialist saw her and evaluated her quality of life, he agreed to do the surgery.

The question becomes this: As the elderly population increases in age and size, how can we afford their care? Technology promises to become more expensive and prolong lives even longer. Who makes these end-of life or beginning-of-life decisions?

This is just one of the issues that must be dealt with in healthcare reform. Access to care, more primary care providers (one medical student who wants to be a PCP has medical school loans of $300,000; how long will it take to pay them off with a PCP's annual salary?) and better transitional care are just the tip of the iceberg -- and all cost money.

We can't wait 4 more years to make changes.

Again, I urge you to go online and watch the entire forum. It's a great preview to the issues we are facing.

Nurses have to step up to the plate and proivide education for the public and public testimony for healthcare policy experts. Our expertise and experiences will be valued.


The nursing student who asked President Obama about his plans to improve primary care in the U.S. also spoke to ADVANCE. Read what Hershaw Davis Jr., a BSN student at the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore, and the school's dean Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, thought of the president's plan for healthcare reform at

Stacey Miller June 26, 2009 10:46 AM

government is inefficient and wasteful. dealing with health would be terrible. canada and great brittan are stuck with this type of disaster. learn from others don't make the same error and get gov involved.

hubert June 25, 2009 9:58 PM
amherst NH

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