Veterans Deserve More Than Just Another "Thank You"

  • Nov 10, 2015

Delays in healthcare unacceptable for Veterans

For Immediate Release:  November 10, 2015    
For More Information Contact:  Marlene McDowell
While it isn’t possible to say “thank you” enough times to our military veterans, sometimes actions speak louder than words.
This Veteran's Day, in addition to saying “thank you” to our veterans, each one of us can take action on their behalf to solve the ongoing healthcare service challenges confronting Veterans Administration hospitals, clinics, and other facilities across the country. Long wait times for appointments—sometimes a month or more just to receive basic health services—are the unacceptable norm veterans routinely encounter. Even though Congress has expanded resources for the Veterans Administration, the problem persists, often putting veterans’ lives at risk, because more veterans are coming to the VA for care. Delays are hard to justify after these honorable men and women have already put their lives on the line while serving our country.
And they are even harder to justify when the solution to the problem is right there waiting to be implemented.
Behind the scenes, the VHA has been seeking to change existing policy that would allow the nearly 6,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) already working in the VHA to have full-practice authority to serve veterans. Utilizing APRNs to their full scope of practice, including Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, would ensure veterans timely access to healthcare that is high-quality, safe and cost-effective. No more waiting in pain and discomfort until “the doctor will see you now.”
APRNs are more than qualified to take on additional responsibilities. To become an APRN, one must earn both an undergraduate and graduate level degree, have extensive clinical experience, and take numerous training programs and continuing education. And every CRNA is nationally certified.
The VHA’s proposal would mirror existing Department of Defense policy, which already uses APRNs to their full capabilities. CRNAs, for instance, are the anesthesia professionals on the front lines caring for troops in every U.S. military action, and have been since World War I. The soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen they take care of—many horribly injured—require the attention of confident, talented, educated, and experienced caregivers to ensure their survival and wellbeing. Nothing should prevent these highly qualified anesthesia experts from providing the same level of care to critically ill veterans back home in the states.
The VHA oversees nearly 2,000 facilities serving approximately 9 million veterans every year, which is why it’s not all that surprising the administration struggles to reduce long wait times. About 120 of those facilities offer procedures requiring anesthesia.
The solution to better care and shorter wait times is right there. It can be implemented immediately. It’s time to say thank you to our veterans by taking action to improve their access to excellent healthcare services, simply by recognizing CRNAs and other APRNs to their Full Practice Authority.
Our veterans have more than earned it.

Juan Quintana, CRNA, DNP, MHS

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists